All posts by katiemerkelwriter

Katie Merkel is a writer, actress, and teacher. She has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish education and a minor in German from Millersville University and is a certified Spanish teacher in the state of Pennsylvania. She has an associate’s degree in performing arts from Harrisburg Area Community College. She currently works as a Clerk Typist II at a local government agency.

What’s in a Name?

Hello everyone!

Developing a new character can be tricky.  Apart from asking questions to learn more about who a character is, I can’t say that I have a standard way in which I create one.

pencil sketch 7Sometimes, characters come to me with a look, personality, and name.  All I have to do is insert them into a story.  Other times, I’ll be writing a story and realize that I have a “role” that needs to be filled in order for the story to succeed.  When this happens, I usually have the personality and maybe even the backstory of the character in mind.  I just have to choose a name and look for the character.

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to create a character based off of a random name.

  1. Go to an online name generator. (If you want, you may specify gender, but let the computer decide everything else.)
  2. Create a character for the name you are given: backstory, personality, home life, family relationships, profession, the culture in which he/she lives, his/her role in society, his/her beliefs (religious, political, etc.), and anything else you can think of.

When you’re done, ask yourself whether or not your new character could fit into a story you’re already writing or if he/she is the inspiration you needed for a new story.

Happy writing!

Katie

*Special thanks to my friend, Taylor Bresslin, for having me do this character creating exercise at one of our writers’ group’s meetings.

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Childhood Favorites

Hello everyone!

Ernie Gets LostReading was a huge part of my childhood.  Some of my best memories are of my parents reading to me.  When I was six and got lost at Disney Land, I knew what to do because of a Sesame Street picture book that my mom had read to me.

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to create a new story based off of your favorite picture book from childhood.  Do one of the following:

  1. Re-write the picture book as a story for adults.
  2. Take the moral or theme of the picture book, and write a different children’s story with the same moral or theme.
  3. Why was that picture book your favorite?  Identify element that made the book special for you.  Then, write a story that contains that element, but otherwise is unrelated to that picture book.

Happy writing!

Katie

Word of the Day

Hello everyone!

I love words!  Word choice is crucial to my enjoyment of a song, movie, or book.  The perfect words and references make the experience rapturous while poorly chosen ones make it painful.

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to build a story using one or more words as your foundation.

  1. Go to merriamwebster.com and write a story using the word of the day.  The word of the day can be used in your story or be the theme of your story.
  2. For something even more challenging, go to merriamwebster.com 5-7 days in a row and use all 5-7 words in your story.  Make sure there’s a plot!

revising 1*Remember, this is a writing exercise.  If you like the story and the words don’t work, cut them during the revision phase.  (Considering I’ve never edited something just once, I should probably say “phases.”)

Happy writing!

Katie

Daily Disasters Make Fantastic Fiction

Hello everyone!

What is comedy besides a light-hearted portrayal of errors, deception, and miscommunications?

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to take something bad that happened to you and use it as the basis for your comedic story.

Mess 4Remember, a story needs a plot.  What was your protagonist trying to accomplish when this misfortune befell him/her?  How did your protagonist adapt his/her plans?  Feel free to add on multiple mishaps and disasters.

Also, remember that comedies usually end well, or at least ironically; otherwise, it’s just tragic to have someone be that unlucky.

Happy writing!

Katie

Supporting Characters

Hello everyone!

When writing a book, it is easy to focus on the protagonist.  After all, he/she is the person the audience should know, and hopefully relate to, the best.  But what about the other characters?  How prevalent, knowable, and relatable should they be?

For my novel “The Four Crystals,” I divided my book’s cast into four groups: protagonist, antagonist, supporting character, and minor character.

My Group Definitions:

  • protagonist: main character or the character whose viewpoint I am using to tell the story
  • antagonist: villain
  • supporting character: a character whose removal from the book would alter the storyline and/or the plot’s outcome
  • minor character: a character whose removal from the book would not alter the storyline and/or the plot’s outcome because another character could fulfill that function in the story

Since my background is in theater, I subdivided my minor characters into two groups:

  • extras: human background/scenery
  • featured extras: they stand out from the  rest of the extras by having one or more lines, being named, and/or appearing more than once

crowd 4I believe it is important to develop a supporting character as much as I do my protagonist.  My featured extras (messenger, loudmouth in a crowd, etc.) should be recognizable, but if they do not need a backstory to complete their task, they don’t get one.  My extras (villagers, soldiers, etc.) are scenery; they’re lucky if they get noticed by the protagonist.

The following articles offer advice on how to create memorable supporting characters.  I hope they help you to create a memorable supporting cast!

“How to Write Effective Supporting Characters” by Hallie Ephron – She uses the mystery genre to explain how each supporting character needs to have a defined role or purpose in the protagonist’s life as well as a distinct personality.  The article also touches on the difference between supporting and minor characters.

“10 Secrets to Creating Unforgettable Supporting Characters” by Charlie Jane Anders – He gives some tips that apply to developing supporting characters, some that are geared towards designing minor characters, and some that work for creating both supporting and minor characters.

Happy writing!

Katie

 

Have a Holly, Jolly St. Patrick’s Day!

Santa 3Hello everyone and happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to create a comedic or tragic holiday mix-up.

St. Patrick's Day 6What would happen if Santa Claus slept through Christmas and tried to deliver the gifts on New Year’s Eve instead?  Do the Tooth Fairy and leprechauns have it in for one another?  Your imagination is your only limitation.Tooth Fairy 2

Whatever you do, you must include at least two holidays and/or holiday characters in your story.

Happy writing!

Katie