Monday, August 18, 2014

Using Astrology To Build Characters

When I first started my novel, one of the characters gave me a hard time. He wasn’t talking to me like the others. To help me get a little deeper into his head I did some basic Astrology on him. As soon as I did that, I understood him and his motivations much better.

I was able to do this because I have studied Astrology for over 20 years (wow, has it really been that long? I’m getting old). I can even draw a natal chart using the time and place someone was born, doing all the calculations and interpretations by hand. That background really helped me shape my characters.

You don’t have to be well versed in Astrology to make it work for you.

Choosing signs for your characters can help you keep their personality on track. When you review the signs it gives you both good and not-so-good aspects of the personality so you can integrate them through out the story. Sometimes it helps give your characters some quirks.

Everyone knows their sun sign, it’s the easiest to determine because the sun stays in each astrological sign for about a month. But what is a sun sign? Your sun sign is your basic character, who you really are. It could also be defined as your true self.

There are lots of websites that will give characteristics associated with each sign so you can look them up and choose one that seems to represent your character. Remember, this is your character’s core.

Of course, your sun sign is not totally who you are. The moon also plays a huge roll in your personality, but since it moves through each sign faster than the sun not everyone knows what their moon sign is. For our purposes, we don’t have to worry about getting out an ephemeris (fancy name for charts laying out the planets), we can just choose what would fit our character.

Your moon sign rules your emotions. It’s how you react to things on an emotional level. This is your private inner self that you don’t always show people. Everyone has secrets, that’s what your moon sign is about. If you’re character is very sensitive, he/she could be a Cancer. Leo’s are very proud and would never let anyone see his/her emotional weaknesses. Play with it a bit and see what you come up with.

The other most important sign is your ascendant or rising sign, this is the sign that was on the horizon when you were born. It’s your public face, the part of you that you allow the world to see. It also indicates how you approach and interact with the world. An Aries would rush in aggressively, head first, while a Virgo rising would take his/her time in social situations and is a little harder to get to know.

Those are the three most important parts of a natal chart. If you can work with them they will help you get a good feel on your character. Then again, you can also just stick with picking a sun sign and following its characteristics.

Here’s an example of how you can make this work for you:

Sun: Leo
Moon: Aquarius
Ascendant: Scorpio

She is outgoing, friendly and a bit of a drama-queen at times (Leo) but has always felt different, since Aquarians aren’t made to “fit in”. This leads her to be shy at times, and maybe she is about some things, but with the confidence of Leo she can be very expressive about other things like in her clothing or art. Aquarian moons also have a strong need for independence, which is likely heightened because Leo’s are also very independent.
When you first meet her though, she comes across as determined and is the type of person you either like or hate immediately. She also likes her privacy (Scorpio) but when you get to know her she’s very willing to share more about herself (Leo).

Play with it a bit and see what you come up with. Sometimes the signs can conflict with each other, which can lead to inner conflicts.

The website breaks down each sign under sun, moon and ascendant/rising sign.

Have fun!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Dreaded Word Count

I’ve been attempting to bring the word count of my novel as close to 100,000 words as possible. Given the books I like to read that seems short. So far I’ve been successful in eliminating over 20,000 words.

I read an article on Writers Digest ( that explained why it’s easier to market a first-time novelist’s book if it’s between 80,000 and 100,000 words. Of course, there’s always exceptions, but why chance my book being rejected because it’s too long?

I don’t worry about word count when I write my initial draft. I need to get the story out, then wordsmith. I find that it takes two different mind sets to write and to edit.

In radio you only have a certain amount of time to read a news story, so it’s important to do so in as few words as possible without missing any important information. I guess over 10 years writing news was good practice for cutting words out of my novel.

Before sacrificing a chunk of story that you think is important to your plot (of course if it doesn’t contribute, dump it), try looking for places to tighten up your phrasing.

Check for words that don’t contribute to your sentences. Eliminating one or two words from several sentences adds up. Of course, it depends on the context and feel you’re striving for.

     She wasn’t going to hang around any longer than she had to.
     She wasn’t staying longer than she had to.

Avoid using several words when one will do. Sometimes it’s necessary to create a certain feel for the scene, but watch for places where it’s not.

     She wasn’t staying longer than she had to.
     She wasn’t staying longer than necessary.

Check for redundant modifiers.

     He was bare naked when he emerged from the room.
     He was naked when he emerged from the room.

     She was completely finished with him.
     She was finished with him.

Sometimes when I’m in the throws of writing, I state a similar idea several times within a few pages. Too much repetition will annoy the reader and doesn’t usually contribute to the story. When I go back to edit, I find and delete the repetition, unless it’s needed – sometimes you have to drive a point home.

These were a few examples of simple ways to cut some words before chopping scenes. Sometimes just rewording a sentence will help you lose some words, other times you need to get rid of that sentence.

Here are some sites that may help in your editing (I’m not promoting any of the services the sites may be selling because I haven’t used any of them). – has several good articles.

I’m sure there are lots of articles out there. If anyone knows any good ones, feel free to post them along with any editing tips you have.