Tag Archives: character development

Outline Everything


I have found that there are two kinds of writers, plotters and pantsers. Plotters outline everything. Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants. They may have some idea of where the story goes, or they may have nothing other than an idea and a character or two. They really wing it. They admit that they don’t know how the story will end.

I’ve heard pantsers say that they can’t outline because it will take away all of the creativity and spontaneity of writing. Of course, this is complete piffle. As a committed plotter, let me assure you that outlining does not take away any of the creativity – in fact, it multiplies it.

Let’s just call it what it is: pantsers don’t know how to outline because they haven’t been taught. And they haven’t been taught how to outline because they haven’t been taught how to write. They haven’t been taught how to write because they never took the time and trouble to learn the discipline of composition.

If I had my way, people who have never studied Creative Writing shouldn’t write or call themselves a writer. You’re not a tuba player simply because you own a tuba or your mommy thinks you’re the best tuba player ever. Like anything else, you have to put in the wrench time. Learning is hard work, regardless of the subject. Creative Writing is something that takes a lifetime to learn and longer to master what you have learned.

Those who have taken multiple Creative Writing classes and have learned the basics know the value of outlining, even the necessity of it. Stories have structure. But more than that, composition is always more of an art than a science. Some people have studied the structure of stories, but still know nothing about who to write a great story.

It’s Not That Bad

An outline for a novel can be done on a Word document or on index cards or on a white markerboard. How you outline and how much you outline is up to you, but please, do something! I truly think that pantsers do some outlining, but maybe they don’t write it all down. I had a pantser tell me once that writing a novel was like playing music, and while I like to read the music on the page to see what notes to play he liked to play jazz. Even jazz musicians read music – it’s called a chart. It has time and tempo, key and chord changes. No one plays notes willy-nilly. Jazz improvisors follow an outline, and in some way, so do pantsers. I’m sure of it.

Instead of music, think of your novel as a university term paper, or more to the point, an advanced degree thesis or even a doctoral dissertation. No one writes a term paper without an outline of some kind. You are writing a creative dissertation and it needs to be organized and based upon some kind of structure. And like all good papers, you build everything around the thesis. The introduction builds to the thesis and the closing wraps things up after the thesis has been proven by the body of the paper. The setting for our story is the introduction and it all leads to the thesis – or in other words, the conflict. All things lead to the climax, the resolution of the conflict, and the denouement takes out of it and into our The End.

The body of our creative thesis is the rising action of our story. Everything that is a part of the rising action needs to help or hinder our hero from achieving or not achieving what he wanted but could not get that set up the conflict. This achieving or not is the conflict. The rising action is the hardest part of the novel to write. We need to know what happens between Once upon a time and They all lived happily ever after. This requires preparation and organization. It requires an outline.

Welcome To The Machine

Stated in the most tedious terms, novel writing is a series of making and correcting mistakes. That’s why writing is re-writing. It may be impossible to come up with a perfect manuscript, but merely one you can live with. Anything that cuts down on the errors should be eagerly pursued. Making an outline for your novel will give you much less to edit out. And there is no better preventative for the dreaded Writer’s Block than the slightly less dreaded novel outline. All of this preparing and organizing tends to fix problems before they begin.

Outlining helps us avoid all of the bad stuff and do all of the good stuff. It gives our novel direction and somewhere to go. We have a definite point A and point B and we know how to get to one from another even if it’s not a straight line. And if we consider the final product, all of the things we like in a really good novel can’t be done by pantsing, but only by plotting. Speaking for myself, my outlines give a better story because it gives me better characters. All of those wonderful sparkles of literary fiction certainly cannot be achieved without an outline, such as portends and symbolism.

I’ve heard people cry against outlining because they cannot be creative or spontaneous if they are following an outline. From my experience, an outline feeds my creativity and is the course of constant surprises. Remember that Creative Writing is almost an organic, living and breathing entity, something that does not so much come out of us but through us from – somewhere. We will still be startled by this we discover as we write, even with an outline, or said better, because of our outline. Some novels are non-chronological. I don’t see how a personal pull this off without some preparation. And on top of that, I don’t always writing chronologically even if the story is. I may skip around, chapter 1 today, 2 tomorrow, and then chapter 5 the next. I could not do that if it was a slave to chapter due to pantsing.

Here’s my secret: I get me ideas for my novels from my dreams – I really do. I write down the basics the following morning and let it sit. I decide what to write and pick two dates, one to begin outlining and another to start writing. I’ll spend six to eighth months preparing and organizing and two to three months drafting. I’ll look through my original notes and set out the road story, then I’ll make a list of potential characters like you see at the beginning of a play. I return to the story and break things into scenes and go back to the characters and flesh them out more. This ping-pong game allows me to develop story alongside my characters. No only do outline give me a cleaner first draft, but a novel where the story and the characters were developed side by side, and I think everything is the better for it.

I hope this advice helps you as it has helped me. And keeping in line with the title of this article, I outlined this post before I did anything else.


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The Opening Scene Of Reservoir Dogs & Character Development


Quintin Tarantino’s date film Reservoir Dogs set a new bar in film making and put Tarantino’s name on the marquee. It’s about a botched diamond heist and one of the crooks is an undercover cop. None of the thieves use their real name, but are given names of color, such as Mr. Blue and Mr. White. The only characters whose names we know are boss, Joe Cabot, and his son, “Nice Guy” Eddie. The names of a few thieves pop out in the story, but I’ll stick to the color names.

After seeing it several times, I noticed that the opening scene paints the characters in clear terms. It is worth a study for Creative Writers so they can learn how to draw their characters cleanly and clearly from the start, even if it’s in a scene that really has nothing to do with the actual story, like breakfast a diner before the attempted heist. I’m going to look at each character in this opening scene and show how Tarantino draws in narrow terms that show their personality and temperament. I’m only going to stick to characters that survive the initial shootout with the cops.

  • Joe Cabot – During breakfast, Joe has an old address book that he hasn’t used “in a coon’s age.” He’s trying to remember one name, Toby. His failure to identify this person in the book portends his inability to identify the rat in his house.
  • Nice Guy Eddie – Eddie talks about the song, “The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia.” He had heard it recently on the radio. He never realized that the singer was the killer. This shows us that he’s not too bright.
  • Mr. White – Mr. White takes the book from Joe when he gets tired of hearing him drone on and on about Toby. He says he’ll give it back after breakfast, but threatens to keep it. It’s all done in humor, but no one could get away with that unless they were close to the boss. More than anything else, we see his relationship with Joe in this scene.
  • Mr. Orange – Mr. Orange is the undercover cop. He “rats out” Mr. Pink for not leaving a tip. He says less than anyone else, but his persona is writ large by this simple exchange.
  • Mr. Blond – Mr. Blond offers to shoot Mr. White if he doesn’t give the book back to Joe. He ever shots him with a finger gun. Mr. Blond is the most violent and starts all of the shooting in the botched heist. We see his trigger-happy nature even at breakfast.
  • Mr. Pink – Mr. Pink doesn’t believe in tipping. He has very clear rules for how he runs his life, especially when it comes to money. He claims always to be the one acting like a professional. He does this when other people are not living up to what he thinks the rules are for crooks.

This movie does have strong language, even in this breakfast scene. If that matters to you, I suggest you see it on cable where they edit out a lot of the foul language. I personally think profanity only comes from a lazy mind. Tarantino was cutting shortcut by having his characters swear. Still, he made a compelling movie and painted some wonderful pictures in the opening scene of what his characters are like, and then gave them interesting things to do after that.

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“There Are Two Kinds Of Men,” A Study In Foils From Doctor Zhivago


Whenever there is a novel-based movie in the theatres, someone will say, “The book was better.” Almost always it is, but there are always exceptions. David Lean’s 1965 film Doctor Zhivago is at least as good as Boris Pasternak’s 1957 novel by the same name.

There is one scene I enjoy in the movie not in the book, so the credit goes to screenplay writer, Robert Bolt. Larisa Volokhonsky has just introduced her fiancé Pasha Antipov to her mother’s “advisor” Viktor Komarovsky, with whom she had been having an affair. Afterward, Komarovsky expresses his disapproval of the marriage because it’s basically a mismatch.

He says, “There are two kinds of men,” and Antipov is the first kind. “He is pure. He’s the kind of man the world pretends to look up to, and in fact despises. he’s the kind of man that breeds unhappiness particularly in women.” He follows this with the second kind of man, which he insists is “not pure, but alive.”

Two Kinds Of Men

Antipov and Komarovsky are two ends of a pole, the prig and the libertine. In literature this is called a foil. This serves as an example for those of us who are Creative Writers. We can learn how to further develop our characters with the use of foils. It is common to foil the protagonist against the antagonist, but that is really the low hanging fruit of authorship. This model is more exciting and provides more options for us.

While there are many opposites that can be foiled, the prig and the libertine may be the most common and the easiest to attempt. Antipov is a revolutionary committed to ending the rule of the czars and bringing about a worker’s state. He is the high-minded idealist. Komarovsky is a rich lawyer who likes to drink, gamble, and eat at fancy restaurants. He has political opinions, but they don’t move him as his appetite. Pasternak, as well as Lean, show us two kids of men as dissimilar as they can be.

Two Kinds Of Women

After Komarovsky tells Larisa about the two kinds of men, he says, “there are also two kinds of women, and you as well both well know are not the first kind.” He follows that with, “you are a slut.” She may not this depraved, but she is far from being the prig. She is indeed alive and willing to experience life. A woman of the first kind would be Tonya Gromyko. She is not as snobby as one thinks a prig to be, be she is rich and proper and fits the bill of the idealized woman.

The main character, Doctor Yuri Zhivago, marries Tonya, but has an affair with Larisa. This is after her husband, Antipov, has left her to fight in the revolution. While Tonya and Larisa might not be as severe as a prig and a libertine, they do foil each other as Antipov and Komarovsky do, just not as extreme.

What About Yuri?

So what kind of man is our main character, Doctor Zhivago himself? Neither, or more to the point, both. That is why I feel that we as Creative Writers can use foils in major character who surround our main character, and not have the two foils be the protagonist and the antagonist.

Zhivago has the best qualities of both men without their excesses. This helps put his affair in a literary context. As both kinds of men, Yuri despises both Antipov and Komarovsky, but he loves both Tonya and Larisa because just one type of woman would not do. Zhivago has ideas and is ideal, he knows life and how to live, he is simultaneously the doctor and the poet.

The challenge to us authors is to learn how to use foils, and maybe even form a foil triangle of sorts as both Pasternak and Lean did. These are the sorts of things that make our texts more full and our characters more developed.


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Animal Group Names & A Collection of Characters: Part II – Land Mammals


In my last article, we looked at the idea of group names for animals as metaphors in fiction. It is such a long list, so we began with groups names of birds. For example, we have all heard of a murder of crows. You can refer to group of characters, let’s say – assassins, as a murder of crows.

We are on land today. There are many mammals who roam the earth, and their collective names are just as varied and interesting as those of the birds. Think of the phrase, “a pride of lions.” If you have a collection of characters who are particularly arrogant, this would fit marvelously. So here is the list.

  • A shrewdness of apes
  • A cauldron of bats
  • A sleuth of bears
  • An obstinacy of buffalo
  • A pace of donkeys
  • A parade of elephants
  • A gang of elk
  • A business of ferrets
  • A tower of giraffes
  • A tribe of goats
  • A band of gorillas
  • A thunder of hippopotamuses
  • A cackle of hyenas
  • A shadow of jaguar
  • A mob of kangaroo
  • A conspiracy of lemurs
  • A leap of leopards
  • A barrel of monkeys
  • A romp of otters
  • A passel of pigs
  • A prickle of porcupines
  • A warren of rabbits
  • A crash of rhinoceroses
  • A streak of tigers

I find this list wonderful. I’ve already used one of the collective terms of birds in my work in progress, a scold of jaybirds. Using these group names of animals as metaphors for your groups of characters will add a layer of flavor and color to your prose, and you’ll be glad you did it.

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Animal Group Names & a Collection of Characters: Part I – Birds


As authors, we make sure our characters are as individualistic and unique as possible. That having been said, all of us will at times use a group of characters to do something. This group could be big or small, a few people of an entire village. You can say something about the group my metaphorically comparing your group to a collection of animals and use the name of that animal group. We all know that comparing the group to the animals is easy enough, but the name of the group adds another level.

For example, we all know that a group of lions is called a pride. You can refer to a group of people as a pride of lions is they have the nature of a lion or if they exhibit pride. The sentence “The Professors milled about like a pride of lions,” is more colorful with the metaphor than without, and it tells us something about the Professors.

We refer to birds as a flock, but each kind of bird has its own group name. I’m sure we have all heard of a murder of crows. That is what I’m talking about, the group names for specific birds. We will consider other animals in the next few weeks.

  • A bellowing of bullfinches
  • A clutch of chickens
  • A gulp of cormorants
  • A flight of doves
  • A paddling of ducks
  • A convocation of eagles
  • A cast of falcons
  • A charm of finches
  • A flamboyance of flamingoes
  • A skein of geese (in flight)
  • A charm of goldfinches
  • A rasp of guineafowls
  • A kettle of hawks
  • A brood of hens
  • A siege of herons
  • A scold of jays
  • An exaltation of larks
  • A congregation of magpies
  • A richness of martens
  • A watch of nightingales
  • A parliament of owls
  • A pandemonium of parrots
  • An ostentation of peacocks
  • A pod of pelicans
  • A convent of penguins
  • A bouquet of pheasants
  • A drift of quail
  • An unkindness of ravens
  • A fling of sandpipers
  • A host of sparrows
  • A chattering of starlings
  • A phalanx of storks
  • A gulp of swallows
  • A lamentation of swans
  • A pitying of turtle doves
  • A descent of woodpeckers

You can add color and flair to your manuscript by comparing groups of characters to groups of animals. Here are a lsit of the names of the groups of individual bird kinds. We’ll have more lists coming soon.

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The Secret To Tremendous Character Development


I have always defined fiction as interesting people doing interesting things. This brings together the two great elements of story crafting, character development and plot development. Between the two I have always found character development to be the most difficult and the most rewarding. I have done many things to add layers to my characters. I have given then all the Briggs-Myers Personality Exam and I have given them associated mental disorders. I have divided them by the anneagramic personalities and by the major segments of types of dreams. But from my experience, the secret to tremendous character development is to explore the relationships between my characters.

Readers Relate To Relationships
Let’s face it, no man is an island. We all have relationships with other people, both those close to us and those on the fringe of our associations. These relationships can be good or bad, but we all have them. So when we read of a character who struggles with a relationship with someone, we can put ourselves in their shoes. Likewise, when boy meets girl and boy agonizes over how to get her to notice him, we all shake our head and empathize along.

Readers want to relate to characters, but readers will relate to relationships because they are so universal. The more prickliness you put in the relationship between any two characters, the more readers are invested because they want everything to work out well. The more you conceal but let you readers know that something is concealed the more they will read on to see what you’ve got hidden on the next page for them.

“Into Me I See”
I once heard a relationship expert define intimacy as “into me I see.” In other words, the level of intimacy between any two people shows us more about those two people than we would have known about them singularly and without the relationship. Think of your own life. How do you relate to your spouse or your parent? The level and type of intimacy a man has with his wife or his father shows us more about him than we could have known of if there never were a reference to these other people.

If this is true for you and me, then it’s true for our readers. Likewise, it will follow with all of our characters. When you demonstrate relationships that are rich and complex, so becomes our understanding of these people. If I wish to describe interesting people doing interesting things, that means some people will work together or sometimes other characters will try to undermine certain characters. The bonds between all of these people are demonstrative as to who they really are. You can give wonderful personalities to your characters and make them as unique and individual as possible. But when you show how all these people get along, you have found the hidden treasure of more interesting characters, which cannot help but make for better stories.

If you found this material useful, please share it on your social media channels. Maybe you know of another writer would could benefit from this information. And if you have any Comments, be sure and leave them in the section below.
And one more thing: Merry Christmas!


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How To Greet The Godfather And What That Has To Do With Your Characters


You can learn about a character by watching his actions. But you can also learn of a character by seeing how other characters interact with him. A perfect example of this is the opening scene of the movie The Godfather. It is Vito Corleone’s daughter’s wedding day. Vito is asked a favor by five different people. They way they go about it tells us something about how they see the Godfather.

Amerigo Bonasera

Amerigo came to America seeking his fortune, and he found it serving as an undertaker. He lived in Vito’s neighborhood, but was afraid to seek out his friendship. When Amerigo’s daughter was beaten and disfigured, Amerigo thought the courts would give him justice. When the judge suspended the sentence, he decided to see the Godfather.

Vito chides Amerigo for being afraid of his friendship and seeking justice in the courts first. Moreover, he scolds him for his plea for the Godfather to have these two men murdered, a service for which Amerigo would pay the Godfather. Vito refuses because it is not justice since her daughter still lives, and he does not do murder for hire services in the first place.

Vito’s greatest offense is that Amerigo did not ask with respect and friendship. When he does, Vito says he will take care of it, but not for money. The Godfather may ask him for a favor in return someday. This favor is asked when Vito’s eldest son is ambushed at a tollstop on a Long Beach Causeway, and he needs the corpse to look its best for the funeral.

Luca Brasi

Luca was bigger and tougher than anyone, but mostly, he was not afraid to die. He threw his newborn son in a furnace because he did not want his bloodline to continue. The same night he took and overdose of pills and turned himself in to the police, hoping to die in prison.

He didn’t die, but the pills gave him brain damage mostly affecting his speech. The Godfather had him released and made him his own weapon. Luca was devoted to Vito, even avoiding being seen with him in public to spare the Godfather’s reputation.

So Luca was truly surprised when he was invited to the wedding. He waited to tell Vito briefly of his gratitude, wished his daughter’s first child be a masculine child, and gave the most generous tribute offered that day for her bridal purse.

Nazorine Pitelli

Nazorine grew up Vito’s neighborhood and ran a patisserie. He knew how generous the Godfather was and honored him all his life with friendship and respect. Nazorine was also grateful that the Godfather intervened once in a welched deposit owed him by a furniture company. Nazorine took a Sicilian prisoner of war named Enzo Aguello to work in the bakery. Enzo and Nazorine’s daughter fall in love, but when the war ended, the government wanted to expatriate Enzo back to Sicily.

Nazorine shows great respect when asking Vito to help keep Enzo in the country. Vito is glad to help. As Nazorine leaves, he brags about the size of the wedding cake he made for Vito’s daughter.

Johnny Fontane

Johnny was a singer, and he was also Vito’s godson. Vito once helped Johnny get out of a service contract to a bandleader who wished to keep him from going out on his own. Johnny ended up divorcing his wife and neglecting his kids, which angered Vito, and their relationship was strained.

Johnny’s voice grew week so he turned to acting. There was a part he wanted that could make him a big star, but the producer refused him the part for petty reasons. Johnny asks for Vito’s help, which he promises, but only after smacking Johnny around and yelling at him to act like a man, which he truly deserved.

Genco Abbandando

Even though a Sicilian cannot refuse a request made to him on his daughter’s wedding day, there is one thing asked of Vito he refuses, with complete understanding why. This offer comes from Vito’s oldest friend, Genco. After coming to America, Genco’s family takes him in, even offering him work in the family grocery.

Eventually, Vito goes into business for himself, but names it after his friend, Genco Pura, which imported olive oil. Genco served as Vito’s right hand man until the day of the wedding. Genco had cancer and was about to die. He asked Vito to scare off the Grim Reaper, which Vito says he cannot do. Genco dies with his best friend beside him in the hospital.

So what do we learn form this? From Amerigo we learn that those who know about the Godfather but didn’t really know him were afraid of him. From Luca, we learn that Vito is generous to those who are loyal to him. From Nazorine we learn that he knows how to be a friend to those who show respect. From Johnny we learn that Vito will always forgive those who come back to him, but you might have to suffer some tough love first. And from Genco we learn that Vito is only human. His abilities had human limitations but his care had human universality. Vito’s personae is enhanced by these relationships. As writers, we can write about character’s actions, but also interactions, and this will add depth to our stories.

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Writing Elemental Characters


The Ancients believed that everything was made of four basic elements: Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water. These Elements were symbolic of the whole of human life and everything in society. With that in mind, Creative Writers have a template of character forms they could use to create four fully developed characters, who themselves compose a quartet of a perfect slice of humanity.

These same Ancients also believed in a fifth element that was a combination of all of the other four known as the Quintessence. So if you wish to use the four symbolic Elements in forming four characters, a good addition would be to add a fifth character – the Quintessential character.

Qualities Of The Elements

There are plenty of places to research the Four Elementals, but allow me to provide a quick rundown of what these Elements represent.

  • Air – thought, reason, the higher functions of the brain.
  • Earth – intuition, gut feelings, emotional responses to other things.
  • Water – sentiment, nature, interconnectivity.
  • Fire – impulse, pleasure, chaos.

There is certainly more that could be said, but this will suffice to get the basic points across. Like I said, there is more available to study if you so wish. But even this scant amount is sufficient for the Creative Writer who wishes to use this to form characters.

One Example

I have used this form before in more than one novel, but one work in particular structures the five main couples on this pattern. This comes from my novella, Firmament. The five main couples are Jonathan and Florida Gameret, Juan and Mariposa Tierra, Ian and Lilly Dotian, Johnny and Bryony Rivers, and Ivan and Iolanta Nyebov.

Rivers clearly refers to water, and Tierra has to do with the earth. Dotian is an old Celtic word for fire and Nyebov is from the Russian word for sky. This would imply that the Gamerets are the Quintessential couple. There surname has a different meaning (taken from Parzival). All of the men’s names are forms of the Quintessential male’s name, Jonathan. And as Florida refers to flowers, Mariposa, Lilly, Bryony, and Iolanta are all names of flowers. It also implies fertility, which is only made possible in the Quintessential couple.

The novella Firmament deals with love and strife as the two creative elements in life. This story is how all of these couple fall in love, but eventually deal with death. How one or both died again harkens back to their Elemental nature. The Tierras crash over a blown bridge on a train to the gorge floor below. Ian Dotian is blown up by a grenade. Bryony Rivers drowns in a car the goes over a bridge into a river. And Ivan Nyebov’s Russian bomber is blown out of they sky by a German fighter plane.

And of course, these characters share the qualities associated with their Element. Juan Tierra is very emotional, even to a fault. Ian Dotian was given to a chaotic life, and his wife Lilly is definitely impulsive, if not impatient. Johnny Rivers was quite sentimental about his mother. And Ivan Nyebov demonstrates great logical skills and his tendency toward deep thinking, particularly discussing politics with the tail gunner while they are on their first bombing raid.

There are a lot of forms available for developing characters in groups. I depends on how many you wish to put together and what the story demands. All good Creative Writers should appreciate the skills that go in to proper character development and take any opportunity to add to their folio anything they can. These can help us become the Quintessential Creative Writer.

I hope you enjoyed this article, and if you did, please hit the Like button. And if you of other authors who could use this material, please share this post with them.

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What The Release Of My Novel Siciliana Reminded Me About Creative Writing: Part Three – Incidental Action & Personality


You can have best plot, but if you don’t have interesting people doing all of these interesting things, your plot goes plop. There are a lot of ways to create characters that are unique and individually specific (the key to interesting). One of my favorite means is to give my characters some physically unique feature that ends up being a description of that person. For example, in my novel Prince my antagonist had gout. It symbolized his rigidness and stubbornness. Also, in my soon to be released fifth novel Pietas, my antagonist is short. Throughout the manuscript it demonstrates how underdeveloped he is a person. He is as diminutive in his humanity as he is his stature.


In Siciliana, my protagonist Giuseppe Albanese is double-jointed. He is called Snodatu by his brother-in-law because snodatu is the Sicilian word for double-jointed.” This feature comes in handy in getting himself out of a jam where he can save his life, as well as his brother-in-law.

More importantly, he is constitutionally moral double jointed. This is by far his biggest flaw and gets him into the biggest pickle ever since Smalls hit his step-fathers Babe Ruth baseball over the fence into the beast’s yard (for all of you fans of the move The Sandlot). I demonstrate this indecision throughout the book so it is clearly a trait of his. When hunting pheasant with his brother-in-law, he can hit everything. But when two birds fly out together he doesn’t fire because he couldn’t decide which one to fire upon. Even dining with his uncle Snodatu cannot decide between getting the pork or the chicken. All of this feeds into a character flaw he most overcome to truly be the story’s hero.

Don Sciarpa

Snodatu’s brother-in-law is Paolu Aglieri. He becomes Don of the seaside village of Sciacca. But he sold his soul to the devil for this favor, which he soon finds out is a bad deal. Once the covenant is made, Paolu becomes bald and later he finds out the hard way he is also impotent. He changes his name to Don Sciarpa, which is the Sicilian word for scarf since he ties a scarf around the top of his head to hide his baldness.

While there is nothing wrong with a man naturally losing his hair because of age, having your hair removed from you, typically by shaving, was commonly done to slaves in ancient history. In the Bible, God describes the slavery and bondage of the Jews in Babylonian captivity as the uncovering of their head to their shame. Don Sciarpa is now the devil’s slave, and this is humiliating. To show this, the devil removes his hair, and just as with the old day Jews, it was to his public shame.

Don Sciarpa and his wife find out together that his deal with the devil made him impotent. She leaves him over this. In general, Don Sciarpa is impotent in that he is completely powerless regarding his situation. He is helpless and the remainder of the story for him is his efforts at redemption, in other words, getting out of the contract.

We all know that physical distinctness help make for individualistic characters. But if you give someone a peg leg and someone else an eye patch just for the variety of it, then you missed out on some great character colorization. Unless you write pirate stories, haphazard peg legs and eye patches make people look different, but until they demonstrate how they act differently, you’re missing out on some great character making tools.

Click here to read Part One of this series

Click here to read Part Two of the series

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What The Release Of My Novel Siciliana Reminded Me About Creative Writing: Part One – Scenic Description & Character Development


I began the first draft of my first novel in 2002 and it took my 3 years to finish and longer to edit. I never got it published because I knew nothing of the publishing world and I wanted to learn about it before I tried to getting anything in the market. I learned publishing companies want writers to have a platform, which is one reason I started this Creative Writing blog.


I became aware of self-publishing and soon noticed it as not only a viable option, but a preferred one. So in the past year I had released three non-fiction books (The Gatsby Reader, Think Like A Writer, and My Plans For World Domination) and a novella (Firmament). I’ve written three additional novels, as well. I’ve decided to release these as self-published works as well. Last week I released my first novel, Siciliana.

As I finished polishing it up, I noticed some things I let slip, mostly the use of descriptions and details that may seem incidental but are vital to the story telling. After all, I haven’t read this in years, so it was good to be refreshed on a few things. One of the things I noticed was my use of scenic descriptions to illustrate a certain character.

The Home Of Don Albanese

Siciliana is set in during one week in October of 1909 on the Sicilian coastal town of Sciacca. It has Dons and vendettas, knives and guns, pasta and bread, and what you might imagine may be in a Sicilian novel. The descriptions of buildings, landscapes, and environments is something I usually avoid as superfluous fluff that adds nothing to the story. But a writer can use such descriptions as figures within the novel. For example take a look at the description of Don Albanese’s house:

At a parting in the fence, a sandy trail advanced towards the house. By the entrance stood a bare and barren ash tree. Two prominent branches reached up from the top of the trunk toward Heaven like two arms braced above one’s head. Nothing organic existed within the broken shade of the lifeless tree. Further up the way squatted a short quince tree. A well-dressed snake with an inexplicable knot in her tail lived amongst the branches. The serpent always smiled. Closer to the manse, a ring of pomegranate trees ascended. Countless sparrows flirted from one tree to another, singing amorous tunes in avian languages. A lonely cuckoo larger than the sparrows bounced from tree to tree, helping himself to anything he liked.

About Don Albanese Himself

This paragraph has plenty of details and all of them are symbolic of the man who lives there. Notice what we see in this scene: a dead ash tree, a quince tree, a snake, pomegranate trees, sparrows, and a cuckoo. These details have symbolic meanings that contribute to the development of Don Albanese even before we see him. The ash tree was thought to be three wood used for the cross of Jesus in medieval times. The quince was also then thought to be the forbidden fruit in paradise where the serpent beguiled Eve. Pomegranates were ancient symbols of fertility and sexual potency. Sparrows were birds given to pleasure and cuckoos take whatever they want.

So before we meet Don Albanese, notice what we can know about him. He is a spiritually dead man who gives himself over fully to all of his temptations and vices. He is particularly given to sexual lusts and will even take what he wants (or who he wants) to satisfy his bawdy appetite.

These are the sort of details that a good Creative Writer can provide to tell us about people and circumstances within their novels. You may want to practice these things so that you can develop this technique and use it in your work, just like all of the Masters did in their books, as well.

If you got something useful from this article, Share it with other writers who could also get some good from it. And if you have any Comments, please let me know what’s on your mind.

You can purchase your copy of Siciliana now on Amazon and Kindle by clicking here. Get yours soon before the introductory price goes up soon!


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