ZIP Final Learning Blog Post

/Zig Zag Zip Writing

My inquiry question is “What Makes a Captivating Character?” I wanted to focus on character building and making an original and interesting character. My ZIP inquiry and In Depth last year was on story building/planning, and my In Depth this year is on novel writing, so I wanted to learn specifically about characters. Until now, I’ve either used pre-established characters or simple characters in my writing, and with a sudden surplus of character ideas and types that I started creating during the start of Winter, I wanted to be able to make them as dynamic as I can. I originally wanted to work with perspective and what the ‘difference’ of writing a protagonist vs. writing an antagonist was, but I decided that it was too broad a topic to cover and chose instead to learn about characters as a whole.

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Throughout this inquiry, I took it onto myself to develop my organizational, blog writing, and research skills. While my topic is filled with information, there had to be a limit as to where I’d stop; otherwise, I would still be doing research. Making a schedule, choosing relevant sources, and finding categories I could specifically use were skills that helped me stay on task and organize my notes. I used the anagram W.R.I.T.I.N.G. (see ZIP #4) to identify different points I wanted to make and learn about. In addition, I worked on my character building, creative stimulating, and writing skills through my artifacts, one story from two (technically four) perspectives to highlight some of the most interesting points I found in my research. In order to complete my demonstrate of learning, I developed skills involving website and blog building.

The answer to my question is very broad and open. Reader opinions change and different sources have different ideas. However, I managed to narrow down my research into seven categories with different sections on the parts and makings of a captivating character:

Writing ~ Writing your Character’s Story

  • Story: Past, Present, Journey, and Future
  • Change: Character Arc
  • Lack of Change: No Character Arc

Relationships ~ Relationships Between your Characters

  • Types of relationships
  • Make your character stop and think about others
  • Give your character strong opinions
  • Play a game of risk with your character
  • Add a love triangle
  • Leverage the group
  • Befriend ambiguity
  • Tap into the power of a grudge
  • Don’t overlook everyday interactions

Identifying ~ Identify your Character’s __

  • Identity
  • Perspective
  • Type
  • Language
  • Attitude
  • Happy Place
  • Support
  • Gut
  • Bane
  • Refuge
  • Redemption
  • Glory
  • Alignment

Types & backstory ~ Types of Characters and Backstories

  • Types: Hero, the Average, the Underdog, and the Anti-Hero
  • Backstory and Wounds
  • Victimizing Characters
  • Antagonist Backstories

Intrigue ~ Intrigue your Reader

  • Heighten the Emotional Bond Between Reader and Character
  • Readers feel sympathy and compassion for victims and underdogs:
  • Contradiction/Paradoxes:
  • Be Subtle:
  • Play on Stereotypes/Cliques/Expectations

Nothing comes easy ~ Nothing Comes Easy: Conflict Makes your Character __

  • Make your character: Complex, Unique, Relatable, Fail, Suffer, Sweat
  • Conflict and High Stakes
  • Writing the Antagonist

Giving ~ Give your Character __

  • Goals
  • Motivation
  • Purpose
  • A Fear
  • A Flaw
  • A History
  • A Present Story
  • Personality
  • Quirks/Habits
  • A Name
  • Desire
  • A Love
  • A Value/Agenda
  • Positive, Neutral, and Negative Traits

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My presentation format is through a writing blog I set up myself, “Zig Zag Zip Writing”. The blog includes all my notes in organized sections using W.R.I.T.I.N.G., my sources, and my learning artifact in the form of one story told from two perspectives using four characters that each highlight different sections of notes. For example, I used the section of “victimizing your character” and “antagonist backgrounds” from T. Types of Characters and Backstories for my character’s backgrounds, I used a list of personality traits and tips to style my characters, and I use the section on relationships (which I found the most interesting out of all my research) to balance out the interactions of four characters. Though my writing blog, I demonstrated my three curricular competencies.

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Think critically, creatively, and effectively to explore ideas within, between, and beyond texts

  • I used my previous knowledge on works such as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton”, Rick Riordan’s “Percy Jackson” and “Heroes of Olympus”, and other such novels and series to input my own reader’s reflection on characters. For example, the sections of “Be subtle” and “Play on Stereotypes/Cliques/Expectations” from I. Intrigue your Reader were completely created by me based on patterns and interests I took from certain characters.
  • I gathered all my information from my sources into multiple sections using W.R.I.T.I.N.G. and expanded on different ideas within each section using my prior knowledge. For example, I used ideas from series such as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” and Jeremy Zag, Noam Kaniel, and Alain Garcia’s “Miraculous Ladybug” as examples for the section on love triangles in R. Relationships Between your Characters.
    • I also interpreted and expanded on what each section meant, such as W. Writing your Character’s Story as seen by the picture from my notes below:

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Explain how literary elements, techniques, and devices enhance and shape meaning

  • Once again, I gathered all my information from my sources into different categories using W.R.I.T.I.N.G., and explained each idea through my writing blog sections, and explained covered how the character creates the plot through W. Writing your Character’s Story.
  • I used the elements of “victimizing your character” and “antagonist backgrounds” from T. Types of Characters and Backstories, personality traits and tips from G. Give your Character and used relationship interactions from R. Relationships Between Characters in my final artifact stories to highlight character building in a piece of writing that was created solely for the characters.

 

Synthesize ideas from a variety of sources

  • I used a variety of writing blogs and website sources (as seen below on sources), read Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Steering the Craft”, and used my own experiences and knowledge to push past the basic types of character building and move on to deeper areas of interest such as relationships and unique identity.
  • Again, as seen above, I personally reflected on the information I found in my research to expand on the ideas and add more depth to the writing blog posts

 

Some sources I found very helpful were:

https://www.well-storied.com/blog/write-stronger-characters

This writing blog article was extremely useful for coming up with ideas for I. Identify your Character’s, N. Nothing Comes Easy: Conflict Makes your Character, and  G. Give your Character. With 33 ways to write strong characters, this website gave a brief overview of things like identity, failure, and goals, and overall demonstrated to me what a writing blog article should look like.

https://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/improve-my-writing/8-ways-to-write-better-characters

This writing blog article was all about the relationships between characters, and opened my knowledge to how interactions show a reader parts of your character. Previously, I thought that a character needs to stand out solely by themselves, but thanks to this website, I learned how other characters can affect a character through thoughts, actions, or otherwise.

https://www.ian-irvine.com/for-writers/article-3-create-great-characters/

The writing blog article included everything from story, plot, and most importantly, characters. There was so much information on character building that I had to pick and choose the information I wanted to include in my research because of a press for time. Overall, it contributed to multiple sections on W.R.I.T.I.N.G.

http://ideonomy.mit.edu/essays/traits.html

This site had a list of positive, neutral, and negative personality traits for characters that I used as inspiration for developing the characters in my final learning artifact story. In addition, I have been looking for a developed list of traits as most character traits that come off the top of my head are stereotypical or classic character traits, often leading to cliqued or ‘Mary Sue’ one-note characters, and this site gave me a wide range of traits to experiment mixing and matching with (especially using contrast).

The main issues I had to face during my inquiry involved an overabundance of information on my topic of interest, and narrowing down the days I had to complete my research. As this is in an area of high personal interest (creative writing), I found it difficult to force myself to stop doing research, and went over my schedule by a couple of days. Eventually, I managed to make a cut off a point for my study, and I organized & synthesized my list of notes. I also found it difficult to start my final artifact story based on the premise of showcasing the characters in a short writing frame. However, after focusing on the specific parts of my research I wanted to highlight, I decided to play with parallelism, dialogue, and using the ‘part of a larger story’ approach.

This inquiry led to a multitude of other questions such as “How do you write unique Hero and Villain characters?”, “What makes a captivating setting?”, “How does perspective and multi-perspective narration affect a story?”, “How does genre affect characters?”, and “How do characters in short stories differ from characters in novels?”. On my own time, I would love to delve deeper into the realm of characters and creative writing. I’m excited that my passion for the creative field has continued to grow, and I hope that through In Depth and other future projects I can continue to expand my knowledge.

Thank you, ZIP 2019!

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In-Depth #1

My In-Depth this year is a continuation of last years project and taking it to the next level: using the skills of story planning and character building and setting my sights on novel writing. In light of LACE Career planning, I want to focus on what it means to be an author/writer, and novel planning & writing is the clear first step to a career in the creative writing field. Some main skills I plan to learn are how to get published, how to finish a novel, how to become a novelist, and use writing as a career. Creative writing has always intrigued me and is my passion, so In-Depth is the perfect way to work with a mentor to expand my knowledge and gain some job expertise working with someone who has some published writing.

So far, I’ve emailed and certified a mentor who is a writer, found some articles and blogs on writing, and made a list of books that are good sources of novel planning. I plan to showcase my learning by writing and editing novel chapters. Similar to last years In-Depth, I will have an author’s circle and readings. I hope that through my time with my mentor, I can gain a clear understanding of what it means to be an author and how I can one day join the ranks of my predecessors in the lines of stories.

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ZIP #4

Related to your learning evidence, what have you done to make retrieving information easier or more effective in class?

I’ve taken the collective notes from my research and reflection and started compiling them under one doc for my ZIP writing blog. To keep the information organized in groups, I made an acronym and sections for each type of research/for each blog post: WRITING


Writing ~ Writing your Character’s Story

Relationships ~ Relationships Between your Characters

Identifying ~ Identify your Character’s __

Types & backstory ~ Types of Characters and Backstories

Intrigue ~ Intrigue your Reader

Nothing comes easy ~ Nothing comes easy: Conflict and Making your Character __

Giving ~ Give your Character __


This allows me to incorporate all my research notes into my blog in a clear, single idea way without causing confusion to the person reading my writing blog. It has also made it easier for me to go over my notes and find the section I’m looking for to use in my artifact writing story. I can also add concision to my notes and find overlapping ideas from different sources.

ZIP #3

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give yourself at the start of your inquiry?

 

Dear Two-Week-Past Self,

Research is hard. And long. As of the current date, January 16, 2019, I (your future self) am still writing notes. My advice? Make more reasonable dates in your schedule, and cut off your notes by Monday, January 14 at the latest. You will find an overwhelming amount of information, especially on 55 Ways to Create Compelling Characters, so take shorter notes and edit duplications of the same information early on. Pick only the most important pieces of information. Also, plan more time for your artifact; coming up with the ideas of how to implement your research into actual writing is way more difficult than you think. Most websites have ways of improving your protagonist, so find a source for antagonist writing to avoid getting stuck on showing perspective. And no, you can’t just start writing the characters without a plan. Make a situation/conflict that 4 characters (two protagonists, two antagonists) react differently to.

 

Best of Luck,

Your Future Self

 

P.S. You might want to write two stories, one from the protagonist’s point of view and one from the antagonist’s point of view, but use all four characters at once (with different relationships for maximum effect).

P.P.S. Find a website with positive traits and negative traits/flaws, weaknesses, and strengths for when you get stumped on Tuesday, January 15.

P.P.P.S. Good luck! You can do this!

P.P.P.P.S. When you eventually write this response for yourself (due to paradoxes and time travel stickiness), please don’t add this many P.S’s.

ZIP #2

What is a specific source of information that you have found valuable in answering your inquiry question? How has it proved valuable?

 

Source: http://www.well-storied.com/blog/write-stronger-characters ~ 33 Ways to Write Stronger Characters

I highly recommend checking out this article for yourself, even if you don’t want to write character simply because it is a very interesting read and will make you appreciate characters that you know/see even more.

This website is a writing community blog, and the specific article ties directly into my question, “What makes a Captivating Character?” by explaining what to give, make, and find for your character, and giving a quick, clear synopsis of the idea. For example, some of the points are:

 

 

  • Give your character a flaw
  • Give your character a present story
  • Make your character fail
  • Make your character sweat
  • Have your character find their identity
  • Have your character find their redemption
  • Have your character find their story

 

 

Each point the article makes gives an explanation of the definition, a possible example for inspiration, and explains how this makes your character more captivating to readers. It also leaves room for generating more ideas, which let me create some points of my own such as “Use subtlety” and “Play on reader’s expectations”. Overall, this source was extremely helpful in note-taking and will be helpful in applying my learning to my writing.

 

As a side point, the blog has more articles that have their links in certain examples should you want to expand more on that idea, and I will be reading those articles to improve my writing after ZIP.

 

ZIP #1

Record a journal entry of how you used one of our in-class focus blocks. What did you accomplish during this time? What did you struggle with? What might your next step in your next focus block? Set a goal.

Author’s Notes: Monday, January 7th was early dismissal and thus a shortened class, so this journal entry covers both Monday and Tuesday, January 8th.

 

Journal Entry #32: Monday, January 7th, 2019

Today was an early dismissal. I found it hard to settle into the working mindset of school after Winter Break, but by the second half of class, I was able to reorganize myself and sort out any confusion on assignments and due dates for all my classes. Once that was sorted out I was finally able to start working on my favourite project: ZIP. I completed my proposal after asking Mr. Morris what the class schedule looked like and reviewing Olesya’s proposal as an example. After posting the proposal, I started on the next step of the assignment (other than research). I have little time after school tomorrow, so I am writing my journal entry for today- well, today. As a side note, my Weebly writing blog is coming along nicely. The preparation for research blog posts is nearly complete; pages have been set up, images of writing and pens have been imputed, and draft posts with the instructions of the previous ZIP steps are ready for release so that others (if they choose) can try the ZIP project for themselves, and I can reflect on the steps for years to come if I happen to lose the package. All in all, it was a good focus block for getting my head on straight, but tomorrow is the serious class. Preparations are complete, and I can use the links I collected over the break to start some in-depth research.

– Michelle Bettauer

 

Journal Entry #33: Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

The focus block went much better today. I was able to find more direct sources and articles and add them to my collection of links, and I started delving into my research. So far I have read through two very in-depth blog articles from writing blogs/communities (Well Storied & Writer’s Digest) on “33 Ways to Write Stronger Characters” and “8 Ways to Write Better Characters”. I have taken down detailed notes on these sites, which have given me a clearer understanding of my inquiry and topic, and I will continue to look through my sources and add to my notes over the next two days. My focus was more on-point today, and I was able to utilize the full class time for sources, research, note-taking, and writing my journal entry for the day. Mr. Morris has also extended the due date for the reflections, and I will be starting my second reflection discussing one of my sources tomorrow.

– Michelle Bettauer

ZIP Proposal 2019

What Makes a Captivating Character?

I chose this question for ZIP 2019 because I want to focus on creative writing and making original, compelling, and relatable characters that a reader will care about. Stories and plots have no drive or essence behind them without characters, and I want to understand how perspective and characters pique the interest of readers to better improve my creative writing. As a writer in pursuit of a creative writing career, I recognize that one of the most critical and key components of the field is character building and management, and it’s something I’ve glossed over with some ignorance to the true value. Recently I’ve started creating a plethora of original characters and concepts, and I’m getting a grasp on the importance a captivating character, both protagonist and antagonist, and what it brings to a story and a reader’s enjoyment. This inquiry is the perfect chance to fine-tune some skills that make the difference in the creative field. It also has the added bonus of opening the way of learning about villain and antagonist characters, a new area of passion as the experience of writing from the perspective or simply about such a character brings new meaning to the idea of perspective and motives.

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In order to accomplish and answer my inquiry question, I will need to draw from my past knowledge and skills. Although I have a lot of knowledge in the realm of creative writing, I am still expanding my understanding of concepts and learning how to implement it in my own stories. I do have a grasp on the parts of a story and how skills/tools such as narrative arc, sentence structure, and description work. But while I understand the concepts of character building and common cliques, I don’t have a deeper complex understanding of what makes a character so likable, relatable, and/or captivating, and that’s what I want to improve through this project.

The main focus of my inquiry is how one creates an interesting character, whether it be the protagonist, antagonist, or secondary. I hope that by expanding my knowledge of character building, I can understand perspective, narrative, and creative writing through a growth of learning that will hopefully improve my ability to create a compelling character and therefore improve my creative writing skills. In addition, through my choice of format, I hope to improve my blog writing skills and ability to create, design, and manage a blog/website.

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Some people and sources I can ask/use for research and support other than Mr. Morris for my inquiry are Mr. Findley (the Creative Writing and previous Journalism 11 teacher), Leslie Wibberley (my possible mentor for In-Depth and a writer), Writing.Tips, Writing.Prompt.s, The Write Practice, The Creative Penn, WritersHelpingWriters.net, Terribleminds, Artists Road, and other such writing blogs, and author websites such as Rick Riordan’s website or JK Rowling’s website for Q&A searches. I can also ask my mom for help designing a website/blog, as she runs the websites for our store.

I plan to demonstrate my learning and inquiry project through a writing blog. I’ve already started experimenting with Weebly and made the building blocks of my blog. A small bonus of this chosen format is learning how to design and run a blog similar to a website, a critical skill in the future of careers. The blog itself currently has 7 pages in the making, as I am planning to continue it after the project, and (although currently unpublished) goes by the name of ‘Zig Zag Zip Writing’.

My current schedule to complete this inquiry is:

Date Progress/Work
December 18-20, 2018:

Complete

ZIP is introduced, inquiry question is devised, Weebly account created
December/January  21-31, 1-6, 2018/2019:

Complete

Winter break, continue working on setting up writing blog, finding sources for research and pinning them for later use, and writing ZIP
January 7, 2019:

Currently accomplishing

Return to school, update on how ZIP schedule in class will look like, updating schedule plan and proposal and posting on Talons blog, finish setting up Weebly blog in preparation for research
January 8-10, 2019

(In-class)

Reflections for Z, research and note-taking
January 11-13, 2019

(After-school, Weekend)

Research, start applying/brainstorming to different posts on Weebly blog
January 14-18,  2019

(In-class)

Reflections for ZIP, Rubric creation, applying notes to Weebly blog
January 19-25th, 2019

(No school, Weekends)

Implementing research into writing + artifacts and blog, finishing touches
January  28/29th, 2019 Presentations