An Interview with the Winner of the February Challenge: Split Personalities


For our February Challenge, we set a slightly different task for the community to sweat over. 

While we have previously tested your abilities to write based on a picture prompt, this time we used the pictures to provide you with a set of characters and some individual personality traits for use in your stories. 

This was the second character challenge of the year, nipping at the heels of January's in which we asked you to characterise an inanimate object. From the comments section, it seemed as though this challenge was the trickier of the two for many entrants. 

The provision of a character does give a writer a bit less room for manoeuvre in their stories, but it does have the added benefit of providing an opportunity to practice your character building abilities. 

If you feel that character building is particularly tricky, or you just want a little more practice, we've collated a couple of interesting articles from around the web that highlight some tools you can utilise to strengthen your characters.

33 Ways to Write Stronger Characters: A great round up of the things you need to remember to do with your character as you build them. It follows the standard formula of 'give', 'make', 'find', that we touched on in our January Blog Post, too.

How to Create Characters that Your Readers Care About: Because it's equally important for your reader to have an emotional attachment to your characters as it is for them to be believable. There's some great points here that you may not have thought of yet...

Get to Know Your Characters: Seems pretty obvious, but this article questions how well you really know your characters personalities and explains why it's so important to get to know them in every respect.

The winner of our February Challenge: Split Personalities was CamdenAyan with their brilliant entry, Blue Connections

CamdenAyan was kind enough to have a chat with us about their winning entry and their own writing journey. 

WEbook: Congratulations on winning the WEbook competition back in February. For this challenge, you were given characters to work with. Did you find this style of challenge hard to work with, or was it useful to be able to focus on other aspects of the story, such as the setting or background?

CamdenAyan: Thanks, I really enjoyed this challenge. I found working with a pre-defined set of characters and associated traits both interesting and challenging. It was difficult but lots of fun at the same time. It pushed me to imagine how these characters would interact with each other given what I knew, and this, in fact, was the focus for me. I thought long and hard about how such different characters could possibly come together and interact in a story, and the setting and background seemed to fall into place.

WB: As your character is hiding from someone and using different identities, it gives fluidity to your character building and development. What do you think are the most important aspects to consider when developing a character, especially a protagonist that is, like yours, an unreliable narrator?

CA: I think it is important to make characters genuine in your story so they are compelling to the reader, especially when the narrator is unreliable. This is particularly important to me as I don't normally like to trick the reader. 

In Blue Connections, I meant for Sarah to come across as vulnerable and quirky yet strong and independent. I wanted readers to empathize with her past and enjoy her victory. It was thus important to develop Sarah in the beginning as somewhat lost in a big city and getting a fresh start with her new job. She is confident in the advice and direction she gives, yet nervous that her past has caught up with her. It was also important to have Sarah surprise the reader at the end of the story by proving herself to also be extremely smart and successful at pulling off the plan she hatched without a hitch, and we see this as she listens white knuckled to her plan unfolding over the phone. 

Overall, I thought it was important to make the small reveals in the story genuine and consistent with her character. 

WB: How did you come up with the idea for your story? Were the pictures inspiring, or uninspiring?

CA: I tried not to focus on the pictures too much as I thought combining both character traits and physical attributes would prove too much. However, I was stuck on Jake as a character and the picture helped me visualize him as a younger adult who dressed flashy and thought he was smart enough to fool and shock anyone he wanted. I thought of what could connect such a motley crew of characters and soon realized that despite people's differences, everyone has a need. I decided that need was the common glue that would pull the characters together and I since I worked in the area of social services, I knew a help line was something that could bring together so many characters that were different on so many other levels. 

WB: You use quite a lot of dialogue in your story. This is a very effective style of writing, but notoriously hard to get right, how do you plan the dialogue you use in your story? Does it go through any testing?

CA: Dialogue always proves tricky but in the end it has to come off as natural. That means writing dialogue not as I wish I spoke, but how I actually speak. I'm a very simple person and I try to have my characters speak that way. This adds a layer of authenticity to the conversations because it's the reader who thinks about how things should or could have been said, and not the writer. In reality, this is what I do after I think about my own conversations - I always wonder if I communicated things appropriately or could have used better words, and this, I believe, is natural. All of that being said, I do put my stories through testing. For Blue Connections, my wife and son weren't crazy about how I had Sarah answering the help line. At first she said "Hello, help line, how may I?" and this irked them. It also didn't go over well with some of the WeBook members who provided me with feedback, so I changed it. Thanks WeBook members!

WB: You include a convincing twist in your story, with a brilliant piece of foreshadowing that creates a satisfying ‘ah-ha!’ moment for the reader at the reveal. This multi-layered approach to your story gives it some real depth and believability. How do you approach structuring your stories?

CA: I structure my stories by starting with a basic concept or plot, and then mulling over the characters (this often leads to me giving my wife a lot of blank stares while she is talking to me, but so far our marriage has survived). Usually I contemplate what it is that makes a character unique and multi-dimensional, and then try and use that to turn a story on its head. For example, in Blue Connections I already knew the setting I was going to use in order to introduce all the characters (i.e., concept). I also knew I wanted Sarah to be driven by her past and use her intelligence to outwit others and resolve her conflict. So, the setting then became her tool, and her manipulation of it added layers to the plot. The fact that Sarah is vulnerable makes the reveal at the end believable, and hopefully readers enjoyed her victory.

WB: What are you working on right now? Where can we read more of your work?!

CA: My short stories can be found here. Recently I've been focusing on flash fiction and have posted ten stories for free here, and there are more coming.

WB: Who are your favourite writers and authors, and how have they influenced your writing?

CA: I've been reading lots of indie writers lately and there are too many favourites to list. I find that indie writers effectively express their passion for writing, and this keeps me motivated to write a good story. My other favourite authors are William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy and Haruki Murakami. The thing I enjoy most about these authors is that they tell a good story. They mix elements into their writing that cut across multiple genres. They've made me think about story first, and now when I write I consider the tale I want to tell and how I want to affect readers, and then I situate it in a genre (or two) that I think will make it exciting.

WB: Any tips for prospective challenge winners?

CA: My tips for prospective challenge winners are as follows: Keep thinking big even though it is challenging to write within the word limit. Then, take your epic story and write the climax of your creation while giving hints to the plot you would have developed in countless chapters. Finally, try your best to develop your main characters in a way that will engage your readers, because characters make a good story great.

WB: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us! Congratulations again on your win, and we look forwards to reading more of your entries over the coming months! 

To find out more about WEbook's Monthly Challenge and how you can enter head on over there now... 

We're currently accepting entries in to the June Challenge: Little Vines 

Good luck and happy writing!

- Hannah from the WEbook Team

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  1. It is really ingenious post of what human behavior can be like and what can be its long term implications dealing with depression.


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