How To World And Character Build in a Horror Novel Series by Charles F. French

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I had a wonderful time participating in the HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference 2020. The hosts were friendly and extremely helpful. The information given out by many presenters is useful for writers who are not horror writers as well as those who are. If you have a chance, you can still stop by their excellent site: HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference
Here is part one of my presentation:
How To World and Character Build in a Horror Novel Series
by
Charles F. French
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Part One

 

Character Biography Sheet

The following worksheet is a sample of the kind of biography sheet that I use when writing. I have formed this based on biography sheets I used both as an actor and director, and I find them to be extremely useful in writing fiction. I do not suggest that I have asked all the questions that another writer might of her/his characters, but I hope this sheet is a good way to begin. Feel free to copy it and use it as you will. I find it is most effective when I include as much detail as I can about my characters. Also, please understand that it is unlikely that you will use all of these details in your writing, but knowing these minute parts of your characters will help you both to bring them to life and to bridge their existence over several books.

Physical Characteristics:
 

Height –
Weight –
Body type –
Hair color –
Hair length –
Hair style –
Eye color –
Scars or birthmarks –
tattoos and piercings –

limps or other physical issues –
Family:
 

Mother –
Father –
Siblings –
Cousins –
Emotional relationship with any of them –

Foods:
 

Is the character a meat eater, vegetarian, vegan, or other special kind of consumer of foods?
Breakfast:
Eggs – how do they eat them? what style?
Breakfast potatoes – homefries, hashbrowns?
Breakfast meat? what kind?
Toast? what kind of bread?
Bagels? what kind, with toppings?
Fruit? what kind?
Pancakes?
Waffles?
French toast?
What kind of syrup?
Cereal? what kind?
Oatmeal? with what on it?
Cream of wheat?
Other breakfast choices?
Lunch:
Soup? What kind?
Sandwich? What kind? What bread?
Salad? what kind? what kind of dressing?
Pasta dish? what kind?
Fruits? What kind?
Dinner:
Any particular type of food that is a favorite?
What main dishes?
What side dishes?
What salads?
Desserts:
Cakes? What kind –
Pies? What kind –
Ice Cream? what kind and how?
Other baked goods? what kind –
Indulgences:
Candy? What kind?
Cookies? What kind?
Other?
Alcohol:
Beer? What kind –
Wine? What kind –
Whiskey? What kind –
Mixed drinks? What kind –
Coffee or Tea
Coffee? How? black, cream, sugar –
Tea: Caffeine, decaf, herbal, cream, sugar, honey –
Other beverages:
Soda? What kind?
Iced Tea?

Sparkling Water?
Clothing:
 

What do they wear to work?
What do they like to wear at home to relax?
Are they formal or informal dressers?
What kind of shoes do they like to wear?
What kind of coats do they wear in bad weather?

What do they like to wear on vacation?
Entertainment:
 
Books:
 

Do they like to read? What kind of books –
Print or ebook?
Read for work or pleasure?
Favorite authors?
Fiction or nonfiction?
Poetry?
Biography/Memoirs?
Magazines? Which ones –

Television:
 

Series?
Comedy?
Drama?
Horror?
RomCom?
Occasional viewer, faithful viewer, or binge viewer?
Prefer traditional cable or streaming services?
Film:
Comedy?
Drama?
Horror?
RomCom?
Suspence?

Life History:
 
Education:
 

Level of highest education?
What was studied?
Did the character enjoy school or not?

Sexual Orientation:
Straight, gay, bi, trans, other?
Romance History:
 

First love –
Ever Married?
Divorced?
In love now?

Children:
 
How many?
Grandchildren:
 

How many?

Other relatives:
 
Who?
If any of you find this useful, please feel free to use it as you will.

Who Is Your Favorite Fictional Mother?

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(Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com)

In continuing this series about favorite characters, I wanted to turn to fictional mothers.  Obviously mothers are one of the most crucial parts of most families, and that is not different in literature, television, and film.

When thinking about this question, I considered many possible choices, but I decided that my favorite fictional mother is also from a book series that I love — Lily Potter from the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling.

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While we often see or read about Lily Potter in terms of what she did instead of directly, her actions to save the infant Harry Potter from Voldemort’s attacks reaches the level of heroism. She sacrifices her life in order to save her child. This action sets in motion much of the rest of the books in the series.

She is, indeed, a loving, powerful, and heroic mother.  Without her actions, Harry Potter would not have lived to become a student at Hogwart’s School Of Witchcraft And Wizardry.

So, I ask all of you: who is your favorite fictional mother?

Biography Sheets For Characters?

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This is a question for all the writers of fiction who follow my blog or who might read it: do you use biography sheets for characters when you are writing a novel? Using such a sheet, and filling it in with minute detail is something that I do, and something that I learned first from being an actor, when I did this exercise to help to build a character, and then as a director, when I assigned the task to actors.

I realize that I create details that I will probably never use in the actual writing of the novel, but the more I know about the characters, the more easily and effectively I can write about them and help to bring them to life.

When I mention minute detail, such an example would be answering this kind of question: does the character prefer coffee or tea, and how do they take it? Or, do they eat eggs for breakfast, and if so, what is their preferred way–perhaps over easy, scrambled, or poached.

So, I ask you–do you use character biography sheets when you build a character?

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Who Is Your Favorite Fictional Father?

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In continuing with my series on favorite fictional characters, I was thinking about one in particular, so I decided on this question about your favorite fictional father. This man is, in many ways, the image of honor, decency, and courage. He is Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird.  The novel has won the Pulitzer Prize and adapted into both a magnificent movie and a currently running drama on Broadway. In the above photograph, Atticus Finch is portrayed by the excellent actor Gregory Peck.

Here are a few quotations from Atticus Finch:

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

“When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness’ sake. But don’t make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles ‘em.”

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

So, I ask all of you, who is your favorite fictional father?

 

Who Is Your Favorite Magical Character?

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I am beginning a new series for this blog today about favorite characters.  I will begin with magical/mystical characters, but the one requirement for these choices is that they are from books or poetry or drama–some kind of writing.

When I ask who is your favorite magical/mystical character, I mean specifically any character who can perform magic, not simply someone who appears in a magical world.

For me, this is very difficult, because I have so many from which I can choose; among them are Merlin from Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory, Prospero from The Tempest by Shakespeare, Harry Potter and Dumbledore from The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, and Gandalf from The Lord Of The Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. I am sure I am forgetting some, but I will make a choice, and my favorite magical character is Gandalf!

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So,  I ask all of you: who is your favorite magical/mystical character?

More Reviews of Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society, Book 1 by Charles F. French

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Maledicus

“I cannot get enough of this book and never want to put it down. Charles French is a talented writer. This creeps me out but also keeps me wanting more!!! This is my new favorite book.”  

                                                                     Alison

 

“Author Charles French has created an adventure driven horror novel. This book presents loveable good and moral heroes and pits them against horrific evil. As a reader, I enjoyed the author’s detailed and polished writing style. The beautiful friendships between characters was my favorite part of this book. Looking forward to reading books 2 and eventually 3! Gallows Hill (part 2) is now available! I scooped it up and its next on my book list to read!

                                                                   Michael

 

Quotations on Characters

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“Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”

                                                                          Ray Bradbury

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“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”

                                                                        Ernest Hemingway

 

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“It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.”

                                                                       William Faulkner

Dining With Characters, Part 4–Revisited

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(John Trumball)

I chose this painting for the mood of calm it suggests, perhaps after a storm.  It seems like an ideal piece to suggest that redemption is possible.

For this particular culinary and fictional interlude, I want to speak with a few characters who have achieved redemption at the end of the work in which they appear: Ebeneezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Leontes from William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and Larry Underwood from Stephen King’s The Stand. Some characters are heroic from the beginning of the story through to the end, but some, if not the complete antagonist of the tale, are deeply flawed. In the cases of these three characters they are all deeply damaged, if not morally defective, when we see them much earlier in their respective works.

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I thought, given the nature of these men, an afternoon of a few glasses of ale might be the perfect way to discuss what they have learned or how they came to an understanding of what they needed to change in their lives. Scrooge, of course, had to learn not to focus his life on the acquisition and hoarding of material goods, and that people and their welfare should be his concern.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leontes)

Leontes, in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, allows baseless and unprovoked jealousy to overtake him, and he becomes a vicious tyrant who casts out his loving wife and infant daughter.  He also loses his son to death as a consequence of his terrible actions. It is only at the end of the play when he sees a “statue” of his wife Hermione come to life that he is able to understand the enormous errors he has made and their horrible consequences.  He has to face knowing that his actions cause deep and almost unimaginable pain to other people.  At the end of the play, he is a changed man, one who seemingly has grown as a result of his wife’s extraordinary act of mercy.  His redemption can come only through the forgiveness of another.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stand)

At the beginning of Stephen King’s epic The Stand, Larry Underwood is a dissolute rock and roll emerging star, who has fallen prey to temptation, drugs, and a very dangerous crowd. He comes back east to visit his mother just in time for the outbreak of Captain Trips. If you have not read this book, I will go no further with the plot, but I do recommend it highly.  King acknowledged that this book was his homage to Lord Of The Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien and the same level of epic sweep and individual morality and action occurs here.  For Larry Underwood, his most powerful moment is that of personal sacrifice.

As a writer, a reader, and a teacher, I am very interested in how characters change within the arc of a story.  I would want to ask these three how it felt to achieve their most powerful changes at or near the climax of the pieces.

Are there any characters, who have achieved redemption, whom you would like to speak with about their journey within their tale?

 

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Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

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Available on Amazon

Dining With Character, Part 3 — Revisited

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To continue this series, I wanted to invite major characters from British mythology.  As before, I am imagining what it would be like to invite a few fictional characters to a dinner and have conversation with them.

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(This is the first page of the extant original copy of Beowulf, written in Old English.)

 

Today’s guests are Beowulf, King Arthur, and Aragorn, all kings from British epics: Beowulf by an unknown poet, Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. These books range from the Dark Ages, circa the mid 800s to the Middle Ages, circa 1485 to the contemporary world in the mid 1900s. These texts are all important to me, both as a reader and as a teacher, because I have used all of these books in different college classes, primarily in the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. While covering a very long historical range, they all deal with the difficulties faced by leaders especially when the fate of their kingdoms rests in their decisions and actions.

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(King Arthur and his knights)

For this entry, we would dine again at a traditional British pub, and we would be seated around a fairly large, wooden, round table.  This seems appropriate, given the attendees.

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“Aragorn300ppx” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Aragorn300ppx.png#/media/File:Aragorn300ppx.png

I would like to ask these three kings what it was like to lead soldiers actively into combat. Unlike the leaders of contemporary armies, they faced death directly with their fellow fighters. I would also ask them what they see the main responsibilities of leaders to be. I would also like to ask them if they consider fate to be real, or are they in control of their own destinies?  Given the variation in optimism and pessimism that ranges in their attitudes, their approaches to facing the difficulties of life and death would be fascinating to explore.

I would certainly be curious to see how these three warrior kings spoke with each other. I think a checking of the swords at the door might be a very good idea.

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What questions would you ask these leaders or other leaders in mythology?

Dining With Characters, Part 2 — Revisited

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For the next installment of this series, I wanted to focus on a few characters out of Shakespeare with whom I would like to spend a couple of hours eating, drinking, and talking. I have loved Shakespeare’s plays and poetry for much of my life. I have acted in and directed some of his work, and I have studied and taught his writing both at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA and in the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA, so I would be thrilled to be able to speak to some of his characters.

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I would have Hamlet, Henry V, and Macbeth as my guests. I imagine we would meet in an English tavern and have a basic meal and beer.  I hope that my royal attendees would not mind not having a grand meal; I am reasonably sure that Henry V and Hamlet spent a fair amount of time in such modest places before their respective plays begin, and as a Scot and a warrior, Macbeth probably was used to basic accommodations while in the field.

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I would ask them about their views of leadership and the responsibilities of a leader and about their portrayals in the plays.  Henry V and Macbeth are both based on historical persons, while Hamlet is perhaps based on a real person–that is a debate for another day, so I wonder what they might have to say.

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I think this would be a lively and deeply fascinating discussion.

With whom from the world of drama, not necessarily Shakespeare, would you choose to invite to dine and speak?

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