Posted in Agonist Aunt, Agonist Aunt Letters, artists, FYI, nonfiction, Tips and Hacks

Dear Agonist Aunt: Ideas Overload, Fleshing Out Characters

Welcome to our Agonist Aunt’s desk. She’s here to help out all creatives who may be struggling with getting started, finding inspiration, dealing with blocks and whatnots in the whole creative process or getting a project complete. Agonist Aunt does not currently answer career or love-themed letters.

This week, Agonist Aunt advises a creative who’s got too many ideas and a writer who’s looking for the real character behind those Character Sheets. Much gratitude to these two souls for sharing their difficulties that so many of us can relate to.

To write to Agonist Aunt, scroll to the end of the post and fill in the form. Only three letters at most will be chosen each week.

Disclaimer: Agonist Aunt is only a sounding board. Her reply is for your entertainment and enlightenment only. Follow any suggestion at your own discretion and own it for yourself. Agonist Aunt accepts no liability and no credit in any event.

Dear Agonist Aunt,
How Do I Focus On Just One?
For my writing and artwork, one of my problems is that there are just unlimited possibilities of what to do, and I freeze up trying to decide on one. How do I focus in on one thing, the more limited the better probably? Limits seem to expand the creative possibilities, but in a manageable way.
Nine Tailed Foxe

Dear Nine-Tailed Foxe
Temporary ditch diverging possibilities in favour of merging possibilities.
I hate to admit I suffer from a similar problem to your own. Yes, it does lead to paralysis and procrastination, or feeling that you’ve scattered your energies too much. I have two approaches to this problem. Choose one that works best for you at the time.
Work on two or three projects simultaneously. This lengthens the time of completion for each project considerably, but also stops the other procrastinator monster, the dreaded creative block, popping up. For those bursts of creativity (or inspirons as Pratchett termed them) that intrude upon your concentration, file them in a notebook, sketchbook or other note-system. Personally, I like keeping a small notebook handy and jotting down notes or making indecipherable sketches/drawings that lead to later creative surges or inspiration for challenging parts of projects much later…sometimes years later.
Another method is to take similar or complementary (or even contrasting) ideas and use them as elements in your current or other project. This way you get to explore your current passion without losing time or getting too distracted by ‘new’, shiny ideas. I find this way great to grow as a creative and to change my style into one that’s more distinctive—more me!

I pulled a card for you and it’s Achievement. During contemplation of all these awesome ideas and ways to utilise them, it’s important to focus on what you wish to achieve with them, or how they’ll contribute to your overall achievement. Some ideas are just for fun, and you don’t need to do an in-depth exploration of them all, especially if they’re costing you too much time and energy and setting your almost complete or half-way through projects even further behind. Keep that sketchbook/notebook handy or even a character who doesn’t quite fit into you current works on file. Some ideas also need the right time to fully blossom and serve their purpose. In the meantime, you can achieve much more with your time in merging workable ideas or using them as new elements.
Wishing you more clarity, focus and achievement
Agonist Aunt

Dear Agonist Aunt,
How do I find my character’s voice?
Having a fair amount of experience crafting plots and building worlds, the one area where I still stumble most is in moving my original characters beyond a set of traits on a Character Sheet so that they can become a living, breathing person on the page.
BB Wonkycandle

Dear BB Wonkycandle
Tune in, drop out, and observe your character.
Before we get to the crux, let me congratulate you on your attention to crafting plots. Many’s a well-told story that’s sabotaged by a degenerating plot as the story continues.
Ah, yes, Character Sheets. While they make you feel terribly productive, they often only give you a clinical look at your character. To get a more visceral and rounded look at characters, you need to drop your pen/keyboard (or at least set them aside), get a nice cup of tea/coffee/tipple of choice, and find a comfy seat. Now, close your eyes and imagine your character in a scene of your story. If you see your plot like a movie, press the pause button. What is their expression in that scene? How are they feeling at that point? How are they standing? DO NOT WRITE DOWN A THING. Just KNOW this about your character. Carry on noticing your character through the scene. The way they move, the way they speak, their facial expressions. DO NOT TRY TO MAKE THEM FIT TO YOUR PLOT IF THEY ARE BEHAVING DIFFERENT TO YOUR EXPECTATIONS. Characters dictate, enhance or emerge with plots. They are not fully formed and we do not fully know them until the end…sometimes never. Let yourself discover your characters as you would a new acquaintance or friend.

If you have trouble visualising your character so minutely, you might want to try casting your favourite/least favourite actor in their role—a great way to justify binge-watching if you need it. Now you have a template for their facial expressions and physical movement, and it should be easy to imagine them playing out the scene in your plot.
I also find dialogue and ‘hearing’ the character’s speech very helpful in revealing aspects of them: their accent, their choice of words, their verbal tics and their silences. All of these can be far more indicative of their inner workings and foreshadow their strengths and weaknesses. Similarly, having a ‘character song’—one which typifies them in some way can also conjure them up almost instantly. For example, in the movie Bunrako, music was used to enhance each character’s nature without dialogue, but it told us so much about them in that moment. Play this song/music when you write about them.

I pulled a card for you, and it’s Empathy. I think it sums up wonderfully what we’ve been talking about. The illustration even has an ear on it, so ‘hear’ your character speak and hear what they’re feeling and how they choose to reveal (or hide) themselves in that moment. Only then is it time to pick up your pen (or keyboard) and let them interact with your plot.
May all your relationships with your characters be long, fruitful and full of empathy.
Agonist Aunt

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Posted in Agonist Aunt, Agonist Aunt Letters, artists, FYI, mind body soul, Tips and Hacks, Uncategorized

Agonist Aunt: Stuck Indoors, Serial Crunch, Overload

Welcome to our Agonist Aunt’s desk. She’s here to help out all creatives who may be struggling with getting started, finding inspiration, dealing with blocks and whatnots in the whole creative process or getting a project completed. Agonist Aunt does not currently answer career or love themed letters.

To start this column off, Agonist Aunt has accepted one letter from Leenna, and two fictitious letters from archetypes who could have written in on a whim. The letters are from an outdoor artist (or street artist), a writer working on a new serial, and a person who’s overwhelmed by the prospect of starting any creative project.

To write to Agonist Aunt, scroll to the end of the post and fill in the form. Only three letters at most will be chosen each week.

Disclaimer: Agonist Aunt is only a sounding board. Her reply is for your entertainment and enlightenment only. Follow any suggestion at your own discretion and own it for yourself. Agonist Aunt accepts no liability and no credit in any event.

Dear Agonist Aunt
Help Me Out Of This Rat Sink (ink/rink)
The world has been my canvas and this quarantine thing is gotten to me so badly that I’ve lost my m/use. I create metaphors with bats to highlight humanity’s and our planet’s plight and self-sabotaging tendencies. But being stuck at home, with no natural canvas (the outdoors), I feel my creativity and sense of self being flushed down the toilet.
And yes, I’m sick of bats and rats. Any suggestions of getting me out of this rat-sinkhole.
I’m-not-B, man

Dear I’m-not-B, man
How about exploring Meta-Fur?
All this indoorsy stuff is getting to most of us, but the silver-lining is it allows us to explore our inner worlds and discover new sources of inspiration. Perhaps, your blank canvas could be your world to create meta-furs and explore meta-fursics—a fusion or diffusion of images and visualisation of what you’d like the world to look like (for humans, animals, or every living thing) when you do return to the outside. Just because you’re ‘in here’, doesn’t mean your art can’t be ‘out there’, if you see what I mean.
I’ve pulled a card for you and this was the message: Inspiration reversed. I immediately thought of inverted inspiration or expectation…I take this as a clarification to ‘look within’ for your inspiration—to your imagination. Rather than reflecting back to the world your truth, shine a new vision to provide inspiration to others.
Wishing you happy and bright new visions
Agonist Aunt

Dear Agonist Aunt
Which Way Do I Go With This Character?
I have this just introduced a character in a new serial I’m writing. At first, I thought she might be the hero’s love interest, and then I thought I’m writing a serial (my first) and not a novel. So, now I’m thinking she could be the secondary character who also carries part of the story. Problem is, I don’t yet have much of an idea what the story is yet, as I’ve just started the serial. My question is two-fold: Is it too early to introduce the love interest, and any suggestions on where I could go with my serial?
Any help would be much appreciated!
Yours sincerely
Character Crunch Time

Dear Character Crunch Time
Map Time, First.
I’ve not written a full serial myself, but it looks like you need a plan. Before you write much further, I suggest you get a large sheet of paper (A3 or A2) and two A4 sheets, some markers of different colours and pens of different colours. Then, I suggest you start at one end (or the top) of the first A4 and start jotting down your ideas for your series. Continue onto the second A4. Stick the A4s together (sellotape works well, this isn’t a piece of art, yet), and taking one coloured marker trace a logical (or most exciting—preferably both) path through your ideas linking characters, events and locations. Then take another marker (different colour, please) and number the plot threads in a progression building up into a grand finale. It’s okay if you don’t have a finale, only your plots must be building into something bigger. Use another page (s) to make more notes.
Then take the large sheet and beginning with your Number One plot, transcribe the basic pointers into your episodes/parts using different coloured pens for characters, locations, etc.
You should have a workable poster-sized map to work on your serial now.
As for your character question, trace their part through the series or see where they might fit in best.
It may seem like a lot of work to figure out what to do with your character, but at least you’ve got a workable map for your serial. Feel free to change it as it goes along. The best maps are always updated often.
I pulled a card for you and the message is: Control. This is what you need to exercise over your serial, and I think this map will give you that.
Wishing you and your characters find your ways in an adventurous and fun fashion
Agonist Aunt

Dear Agonist Aunt
Where To Start This Creative Life?
I’m a new creative. Not new to creative thinking, per se, but to producing creative things like crafts and painted works and writing and all that good stuff. I’ve recently finally gotten some time to get into producing creative stuff, but I don’t know where to start. I’ve gotten a whole truckload of Amazon goodies from paintbrushes and canvasses to baking and decorating utensils to a brand new mug that says “I write therefore I am’, but I get intimidated just by looking it all and thinking of all the things I’d like to do.
How do you suggest I get started?
Overwhelmed and Intimidated

Dear Overwhelmed and Intimidated
Start With A Word
Some believe everything ever created was done so by the power of a word, so you may want to try that first. Write a word on a piece of paper, or paint it on a blank canvas. Don’t over-think it. Write it big or small, fancy or scribbled, untidy or super-neat. It doesn’t matter. Neither does the word. I don’t suggest supercalifragillisticexpialidocious, though. Just saying. Next, take another colour and write another word, or swirl the brush around, or draw swirls and twirls. Then take a step back and decide if you’re going to go all Jackson Pollack on it or do something intricate and dainty instead.
Most important of all—the most vital part to creating creative work—is to have fun. So, have fun!
I pulled a card for you and its message is Power. This is a card of intuition, and as well as one which I see as being esoteric in nature. If you have esoteric interests, you may want to start off by drawing/painting or engraving your favourite symbol on your canvas/a piece of wood/some clay. But most of all follow your intuition and see where it takes you. Still, don’t forget to have fun!
Wishing you lots of fun and exploration
Agonist Aunt