I thought this was a handy video to have as it shows the various types of zombies.
I thought this was a handy video to have as it shows the various types of zombies.
Every person you meet has their own story. Their story concerns how they were raised, what their life was like, previous jobs, and relationships. Characters are no different. A character should have a back story. The purpose of a back story is to give a reason for your character’s motives, habits, dreams, and even dislikes. When creating a back story, you will need to create not only the past of the character, but times, and experiences. The back story, however, is not a character history. Histories take a long time to build and structure. They could make up a story in themselves.
While a character history would be good, it takes too long to create. Plus, it is usually unnecessary for the purpose of writing a single story that concerns your character. A back story is a briefer compilation of key points in your characters life that brings him or her to a conclusion. That conclusion is the beginning of your story.
The things that people experience in the past can have results on how they act or react in the present. Almost everyone has secrets. These secrets will affect them, probably more strongly, than other past events. What is your character hiding in their past? What secret could affect them in the present (or future)?
To heighten the suspense of the past, or secrets, add pain. More pain means more sympathy, which in turn leads to more interest from the reader. To create an interesting past for your characters, the easiest way is to ask, “What if…?”
What if your character quit high school? What if they decided to become an exotic dancer? What if this exotic dancer is from a very high class family? What if the point of being an exotic dancer wasn’t for the money, but to spite that high class family? The what-ifs can go on as long as you need them to. And every what-if gathers into a specific spot in the back story: the character motive.
Using a back story, you can find reasons for everything from the motive, to behaviors, even to habits. Think along the lines of a counselor. They have to get their patients to talk, even face things that bother them, in order to move on to healing. Treat your character as a patient. Ask questions. Get them to talk. The farther you delve into their past, the more likely you are to uncover the trauma that starts them on their path. Like real people, how the character deals with that trauma determines their character traits.
Take a trauma where a child witnesses her mother’s death. If they try to run from the reality, they are more likely to run in the future. They may not want to deal with the real world and could end up creating an elaborate fantasy world that they escape to when things get too rough. This will lead to behaviors that include distancing themselves from others, the inability to connect with their emotions, or deal with other people’s emotions.
If the child becomes angry and lays blame on someone else, they are more likely to become aggressive. They will be prone to emotional outbursts and will have issues dealing with their, or other people’s emotions. If the child accepts the death as reality, they could end up being too realistic in their dealings with other people, becoming slightly pessimistic. If the child then has to support the remaining parent, the child misses out on their childhood. They will be more likely to be overly responsible and often refuse to “enjoy themselves”. Or they could end up blaming their remaining parent for the hardships that they are forced to endure. And so on.
When creating your own back story, keep your mind open to anything that occurs to you. Begin with an overview of the past. After the overview is complete, move inward, toward the trauma, while keeping an eye on cause and effect. Remember to add influences that affect the personality traits of the character. They will not be as strong as the story behind the motive. This is mainly because the motive impacts the character more than anything else. Also remember to use senses to backup the key points of the back story.
In the real world, our senses will pick up on something that will remind us of something in our past. So using senses during a traumatic event in your character’s past could end up being used in the story as a way to block the character from reaching their goal. Using the child who saw her mother’s death, you can add that the room smelled heavily of lavender. Lavender was the mother’s favorite flower. The father, in the attempt to make his wife’s passing easier, tried to bring her everything she liked most in the world. The end result would be that the child abhors the smell of lavender and serves as a reminder of that dreadful day. Now, every time your character smells lavender, she remembers the death of her mother.
Back story is a useful tool in discovering motivations and habits of your characters. You have to remember that character motivation is usually the driving force of any story. The character wants this or wants that, but in order to achieve their wants, has to complete a series of tasks. Character back stories give writers a chance to glimpse the character. They help to form the character more completely in the writer’s head. This makes the character more real when being written about and easier for your readers to connect to.
Amelia stared at her computer screen, its dim glow illuminating her face as she struggled to find the words that would satisfy her. A cursor blinked lazily on the left side of the page, a beacon of temptation. But not just any words would do, they had to be the right words to convey the story she envisioned in its glaring detail.
For her, writing was as necessary as breathing. A pull of something that was constant in the back of her mind, begging her to write an extra word here or there, to make up the lines of a story half-remembered, or long forgotten. She lived to write and dreamed of ideas. Her characters danced pirouettes in her head; all whispering the sweet nothings of their stories in her mind’s ear.
Her skin crawled with the need to fill the blank page that mocked her, demanding her attention. Her coffee sat cooling on the desk next to the keyboard, every once in a while sending a vague draft of its warm odor to her nose, a reminder of its presence.
Fear began to well, joining with her need: the beginnings of panic. She had to write. But what to say? There were so many words; words that described an item differently to each person who saw it. Words echoed in her head, all evoking a line of thought until she thought she couldn’t handle any more. But still they came. The color of the monitor, the screen within, all yearning to have their words heard. Still, characters swam by her mind’s eye, desperately seeking her attention and more, her approval.
Music blared in Amelia’s ears, a loud cacophony, not meant to draw her attention but to define the mood in which she could write if she could find the words. A soft, elaborate waltz of notes invaded her ears, almost bringing tears to her eyes as she thought of knights fallen in battle, women waiting for their soldier’s return, and death itself in his endless search of companionship.
Death, like her, wanted perfection. That fundamental need to express the world in a way that all could understand and agree with. Death’s need was for the perfect companion, to share lost nights with, as he paced the earth in search of souls too old for their bodies. She needed the story that told what she felt, the words of her characters as they needed them described.
Finally, unable to find what she sought. She turned the monitor off with a harsh motion of her hand. Embittered tears trickle down her cheeks at the face of her failure.
A sip of coffee and the doorbell rings. So begins the new day.
“Sire.” A cool voice sounded from outside the glass that Tom was perched near. Tom nodded to his invisible accomplice then turned and glanced back at his people. Father stood in front of the mantle, lecturing Harry/Son, who was staring avidly at the fire in the fireplace. Mother sat in a rocker nearby, but was completely engrossed in her knitting. They would never notice his absence.
Tom faked a huge yawn, showing off his long canine teeth, and then leapt from his place on the sofa, before sauntering toward the door. Glancing at the humans, he frowned. Typical. All they cared about were the problems that Harry had gotten into. Harry had tortured a neighbor’s milk cow, by scaring the beast. If it hadn’t been for the fact that the cow won’t give milk, Tom wouldn’t have let the lecture go on so long. Now he figured that Harry probably wouldn’t do it again.
He opened his mouth and let a loud yowl erupt, telling his humans that he was ready to go outside for a while. Father glanced at Tom but didn’t stop his tirade over Harry. Mother jumped as if she had been started, then, finally, putting her knitting aside, approached the door and opened it. Tom meowed his thanks, and then strolled into the darkness beyond his home.
Once outside, the voice that had alerted him to the time, came from the flowerbeds.
“Sire.” The voice spoke, its tone amused and annoyed.
“Ok, Catamount, why am I being summoned at this time of night?” Tom asked, turning his already night-ready eyes to the shadows where a large black cat loomed.
“There is a human child left at the edge of the village, crying up a storm, but no humans have noticed it.” Catamount stated, shimmying out of a rose bush.
“That is why you summoned me tonight?” Tom asked, staring at his personal guard in surprise. “Why didn’t you wake up your humans?” Catamounts’ tail bristled slightly, and Tom remembered belatedly that Catamounts’ humans had abandoned him in the village when they moved.
“Sorry, chap.” Tom stated, embarrassed. “I forgot.”
“Yes, sire.” Catamount replied, clearly ruffled. “The child is different though.” He added by way of explanation, as if he wouldn’t have woken up his humans if they hadn’t abandoned him.
Tom nodded. “Alright, show me the child, and we can decide what to do.”
Tom knew that Catamount was suspicious and prone to believe old wife’s tales, but he was one of the biggest and strongest cats in the village. Tom had had to put up with Catamount prowling around him since he was a small kitten. His parents were the King and Queen of the village, and when his father died, Tom became King. His mother had always been concerned that Tom would be attacked by frequent feline visitors, and had begged his father to install a bodyguard.
Tom didn’t like the fact that Catamount’s humans had left him behind, but he also hadn’t looked forward to the task of finding a new bodyguard.
The village had many comings and goings in the last human year, families moving from other areas, other old families living for new lands. Tom hadn’t liked the change, which had never happened before. He was uncomfortable with the new humans, getting bad feelings from them, or their animals, which had a cruel look about them. His village was growing and no one had had the decency to consult him about it. He had specifically chosen to live with the Village Elders as soon as he realized his father’s upcoming death, just so that he could keep abreast of the news.
Catamount coughed, dragging Tom’s attention from his thoughts.
“Carry on.” Tom motioned his old friend forward with a slight wave of his paw. Catamount nodded and began to lead Tom through the village. After a few moments, Tom realized that they were heading for the crossroads, an area where wagons and carriages often tore about, sometimes killing the occasional animal.
Tom stopped. “Why are we going to the Crossroads?” He asked his protector.
“The child is on the far side of town.” Catamount replied glancing over his sleek shoulder.
“And how do you know about it?” Tom asked, concern bringing his ears forward. He listened intently to his friends reply.
“I was told by Fluff.” Catamount said shortly. Tom thought he heard an edge of anger or sadness in his friends tone.
Tom sat on his haunches considering. He didn’t like the fact that Catamount had spoken to Fluff, the local glutton. Frowning he realized that as far as he knew, Fluff hadn’t left his home since Tom was starting to learn to hunt. So how could Catamount have spoken to him?
Especially since Fluff lived on the other side of the Crossroads. “What am I supposed to do with the child? My humans are on this side of the Crossroads. I haven’t been on the far side in over six human years.”
“We thought that it might be best if you saw the child personally.” Catamount stated as if it was obvious. He had continued walking even though Tom had stopped.
Glancing around, Tom noticed that he was near the main street of the village; across the way from him was a bar whose occupants were in the full swing of another of their nightly celebrations. Horses were tethered up to the fences, looking terrified at the thought of their masters returning to claim them. Tom guessed that the carriages were housed in the stable.
Tom’s tail twitched as he spotted a mouse, but he sighed. First deal with the child, then he could grab himself a snack before returning to his home. Tom sighed, stood, and trotted after his companion.
“Ok. So how far past the Crossroads is the child?” Tom asked, still not liking the idea of the Crossroads. His uncle and two brothers had been killed at the Crossroads, and he didn’t fancy the thought of himself going the same way.
“Not long after we cross.” Catamount stated casually. He slowed his walk to let Tom catch up then matched step beside him.
Tom was caught up in his thoughts so didn’t realize when they finally approached the dreaded crossroads. The only thing that stopped him from walking right across and possibly being killed was Catamount tackling him.
“What?!” Tom demanded outraged.
“Don’t think and walk at the same time, you might miss the obvious.” Catamount told him gruffly, stepping off Tom. Two carriages chose that moment to rumble by. Tom was amazed that humans would still be out of bed after dark, but then remembered that the tavern was still open. Sighing he told himself to be more cautious in the future.
Suddenly, Catamount charged across the Crossroads, a sleek black streak in the night. At the other side, clearly out of breath he called back, “get ready… Now!” Tom hesitated staring at an approaching coach.
“For the love of Isis, Tom. Move when I tell you.” Catamount shouted at him, when the coach had passed. They waited silently as more carriages, coaches, and horses passed, until there was another break in the traffic, then Catamount called, and Tom launched himself into the road. Half terrified, he ran as if the devil himself was behind him. Out of nowhere came a speeding horse, its hooves striking the ground directly in front of Tom’s heedless charge. Tom froze, even as the beast swept past, and stared at it. A carriage wheel rolled over his tail and he screamed in pain, but the moment he was released he bolted to where Catamount stood.
“Good job.” Catamount stated, not looking at him. Tom frowned, licking his painful tail.
“Why humans create death traps is beyond me.” Tom told his guard. The other cat snorted.
“The child isn’t far from here.” Catamount told Tom, his voice seemed to be deeper than it had been. Tom glanced up at his friend, but Catamount wouldn’t look at him. Sighing, Tom got to his feet.
“Let’s hurry this up, Catamount.” Tom said, they began moving and quickly came to the place that the child was supposed to be.
Tom glanced around, not seeing anything. The sound of snuffling reached his ears and he glanced at Catamount. “It’s probably been crying this whole time and is finally falling asleep.” The black cat said, staring around, it kept its gaze from Tom, and Tom was starting to get a creepy feeling, as if something bad was going to happen. He had had the feeling once before. At the time he didn’t know what it meant, but shortly afterwards Harry had come home crying, his arm was broken.
That same feeling had started to plague Tom, and he couldn’t pinpoint why it would. His humans were all home and accounted for, his parents had been dead for the last three human years, and he was in the company of Catamount who wouldn’t let anything happen to him.
He shook his head, disgusted at himself for trying to find things to worry about. If his mother had been with him, she would have told him off for going out after dark, on the far side of the tracks, with or without Catamount. Tom glanced at Catamount, wondering if his friend had heard the tales of the Beast. Knowing Catamount though, Tom admitted, he did know about the stories, and believed them. But then why was Catamount out with Tom on the far side of the Crossroads looking for a human child? Tom shivered uncomfortably.
Catamount started toward the sound of the snuffling, and Tom fell in behind him, as he always did, trying to keep his wandering mind at bay. The black cat slinked stealthily into the trees that lay to the side of the road, and Tom, spooked by memories of the stories his mother had told him, had no choice but to follow his guard.
The snuffling sounds grew louder, until they were almost thunderous. Tom froze realizing something was definitely not right. Catamount didn’t seem to notice Tom, and soon vanished from sight.
After a few seconds, the snuffling was silenced. Tom realized belatedly that the forest was still. He knew that there should be sounds emanating from the various creatures of the forest, but he couldn’t hear anything. For a moment, he had the panicky feeling that he had lost his hearing.
Suddenly, his skin prickled, and his tail fluffed. Tom knew when his skin prickled that he was in danger. Quickly he started to back the way he had come, but realized just as quickly that he didn’t know which way he had come from.
Terrified he huddled close to the ground, hoping that his mottled fur would make him practically invisible to anything that would come upon him.
A loud snap came from Tom’s right, and he understood that the sound was a twig breaking. The night was silent again, but his muscles still hummed with tension.
He sensed movement and unintentionally turned to face it. A creature standing almost as tall as a man, but was definitely a cat stood next to him. A yowl caught in Tom’s throat as he stared at the creature. It was huge and black, bigger than any cat he had ever imagined. Its eyes were blood red and stared at him, knowing where he was.
Unable to stay under that terrible gaze, Tom bolted. He didn’t know where he was going, nor did he care, all he wanted was to be anywhere than in the forest at that moment. A movement straight in front of him caused him to falter then stumble. How had the Beast gotten in front of him, when it was behind him?
But no, it wasn’t the Beast, it was Catamount. Tom redoubled his efforts and within a few seconds stopped next to Catamount. “You will never believe what I just-.” Catamount turned his gaze on Tom, and to Tom’s horror, his eyes were as red as those of the Beast.
Alarmed, Tom bolted the way he had come, but remembering what was waiting him in that direction, he turned, and slammed into a large fluff ball of a cat. Fluff the glutton of a cat was out of his home. Fluff looked at Tom. His voice was cold when he spoke, “What’s wrong, sire?” He asked, his blood red eyes seeming to peer into Tom’s soul.
Tom turned to run, but only froze, paralyzed by fear as every single cat of the village prowled toward him, their eyes glowing bright red, their faces twisted into gross masks of what they once were. Then the Beast waded into them, striding toward Tom, his mouth opening wider with each step.
Tom’s shriek split the air.
He jumped backwards and fell off the sofa. His heart thundered in his ears, as he looked around the familiar scene of his home. Mother was still sitting with her knitting needles clutched in her hands, though her eyes were on Tom. Father was still telling off Harry. Tom breathed a sigh of relief knowing that he was safe.
Trying to look nonchalant, he leapt back onto the couch and stretched before he curled up on his perch. Glancing out the window, before he closed his eyes to go back to sleep, he froze.
There amidst the bushes that decorated the sides of the house were two sets of eyes, one larger than the other and both blood red.
I still remember just how she looked, the moment she entered the room. Fat snowflakes dusted her mahogany hair, matching her pale skin and marking a stark contrast with her black eyes. She didn’t see me at first, so I could afford the study of her rosy cheeks and laughing mouth. Her dark red coat had several splotched of packed snow, revealing an intense snow-ball fight which must have occurred right outside the door of the house.
Then she looked at me. It was as if I was shot through with electricity. Even my fingers went numb with the intensity. She looked as surprised as I felt. Neither of us seemed to be able to move for a moment. Her blond friend looked back and forth between us several times before shoving Tanya toward me.
She was like no one I had ever met before. We spent that whole night talking, laughing, drinking cocoa, and yes, a couple of snow-ball fights were thrown into the mix. I still remember the way her eyes lit up when she smiled, or talked about something she cared deeply for. I can still feel the way her fingertips pressed into my forearm as she told me her dreams with an intensity that made my heart shudder. We exchanged numbers before she left, with the knowledge that she would call the moment she got home.
She didn’t. I would like to think that if she could have, she would. Maybe we would have spent hours speaking on the phone, as we had in person. Maybe we would have met up again, over a cup of coffee. We did, after all, live in the same town, only a few blocks away from each other. It was a chance encounter, us both visiting family, and then friends. It was surprising that we had never met before, but no matter. She would never be able to make that call and I would never be able to call her.
That night, one of the engines on her plane froze. Just a few hours after we made plans, she was dead.
I still remember the way she looked that day, when she came in the door, dusted with snowflakes.
I was checking out another horror writer’s site and I found that they, too, have a series of rules for their writing. I was very impressed with their set of rules and wanted to share it with you, so check it out:
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
1. GAUGE YOUR AUDIENCE. Don’t make your story too “easy” for older readers or too complex for younger ones. It is easy to get lost in the tell of the story and forget who you are telling it to, so it is very important to keep your reader in mind.
2. INTERESTING BEGINNING. Try to find a unique way to open your story. This opening needs to, at the very least, set the atmosphere of the story.
3. KNOW YOUR CHARACTERS. You should have a basic idea of your character, be it a name or an image, something that you can start off with. The more you know about your character(s), the more they come alive in your mind, and through your writing, in the mind of the reader.
4. KEEP THE STORY MOVING. The story needs vivid details in order to create a sense of reality within the reader. However, avoid becoming long-winded. Remember that you are telling a story and it must move forward.
5. THE END. A good story requires a good ending. Don’t try to draw the story out. Let it end where it needs to.
6. RELAX. You did a good job. Take a moment to catch your breath and pat yourself on the back. You have done what no one else in the world can do: you have written your story. Congratulate yourself.
Well, a few days ago, we received a huge bag full of apples from someone’s tree. Since then, we have scratched our heads trying to figure out what to do with them all. The main idea we have is apple sauce or apple butter. We intend to try both of those. But in the meantime, we figure ‘let’s try some of these recipes around the net.’ Frankly, I am very glad we did. Why? These recipes aren’t half bad.
We made “Country Apple Dumplings” today. They turned out absolutely amazing. Got the recipe from Allrecipes.com. Definitely a keeper… Also, I messed up the last part and mixed the Mountain Dew with the sugar, butter, and cinnamon in the pot (ended up heating it all up) before drizzling over the dumplings. Don’t know if that makes a difference. We will be trying the same recipe the right way. Then trying it again with our own crescent roll mix (once we find one). Hope you all enjoy it as much as we do/did.
(The above photos are how they look out of the oven.)
We also made “Sauteed Apples” yesterday. They reminded me of apple crisp, without the crisp part. Very good. Also found on Allrecipes.com. Have fun!
PS. I will try to remember to get you some pics next time… sorry folks!
There is an interview round robin going on every Thursday that is cool, I guess. Basically, on Thursday, someone interviews themselves and posts it to their blog then nominates three other writers with blogs to do their own interviews. The first writer links up the next three writers and on down the line like a pyramid. The idea behind it is to drive traffic to other blogs. I think that this would have been a really awesome idea if we were to post other author interviews on our blogs rather than our own, but hey, I didn’t make up the rules. I also chose not to nominate someone else because I felt that people should do this if they want to do so, not because someone nominated them to. So if you decide to do your own interview, feel free to send me a link so I can 1) go read it, and 2) link it up to my account. The person that nominated me is a good friend, James Hoke, who recently published his first fantasy book: Twins 1: The Ark Brothers which is available for purchase at Amazon.com in both hardcover and kindle editions.
So on to my interview…
1. What are you working on?
I am working on a teen paranormal novel series with vampires, werewolves, zombies and few other creatures that go bump in the night. I recently completed a novel about a girl who has to survive a zombie apocalypse.
2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
For the zombie apocalypse book, it deviates because it focuses on teens instead of adults. Its the only teen zombie apocalypse novel that I know of. As far as the novel series, its not much different from what has been done before, just a new twist on old story-lines.
3. Why do you write what you do?
I have always been fascinated with things that go bump in the night and have been writing “horror” stories since I was 9 years old. My favorite story when I was really young was “Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. While most girls my age played Cinderella, I played the Headless Horseman. It has always been in my blood, I guess.
4. How does your writing process work?
Well, like any story, it begins with an idea. The idea could be a plot-line, a character, a scene, or even a setting. Then I sit on it and let it flow through my mind while I tweak, arrange, rearrange, mold, shape, reject, and sift through concepts that come with the original idea. After a while, the story itself starts to form in my head and that is when I begin to write. Often, I have no idea where the story is going, but I feel that in this way, the characters have a better chance of coming alive in my mind. Plus, I have found that if I know the ending, I feel like I am forcing the characters to do things that they wouldn’t normally do. Anyway, I continue writing until the end, then do my revisions. That is pretty much it. And each story is different. For one story, I might start at the beginning, but for another, I might start with a scene that comes closer to the middle.
Thank you for reading. Again, if you decide to interview yourself and would like me to read and link up to your interview, feel free to contact me. 🙂
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Writing, Life, Zombies, The End Of The World ... And Occasionally Sailing!
Surviving The Zombie Apocalypse
Kristen Lamb Social Media Jedi
A dpInk: DonnaInk Publications Horror Fiction Novelist
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(I have no idea what I'm doing)
Ruth zombie apocalypse stories and tales of SHTF, TEOTWAWKI and WROL
That which is not true, but could be true under certain conditions.
Flash Fiction and other musings.
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Thoughts about the looming Zombie Apocalypse
The Dark Lord of the Pith
Survival Considerations When The SHTF
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