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Writing Horse Fiction - Characters
 By Artista   •   25th Mar 2011   •   7,558 views   •   20 comments
This is just a general article for writing better fiction. Some things I have learned while writing "professionally" and things I've picked up from writers meetings. I finished writing a fiction/fantasy novel [Gypsy] in 2010-2011 and we're currently working on editing and publishing, so I'd like to hope some of the things I've learned could be useful to others. And again, remember that these are only "tips" -- there really is no wrong way to write.

This is a multi-part article, and today we're going to discuss developing better characters.

The Characters

Developing the characters is, in my opinion, the most important part of your story. Good characters can drive even the most boring plot.

Developing Equine characters is as difficult or more difficult than developing human characters. Because horses don't have as wide a range of realistic disorders, speech patterns, ethnicities, and backgrounds as people do, your choices become smaller (and ever more important!) Creating "perfect" characters is boring - but creating characters that are so warped, deranged, or twisted tends to lean toward being unrealistic. So how do you strike a balance?

Writing Horse Fiction - Characters

The first step in creating your characters is developing a set of rules to go by. Whether you're writing about Unicorns or Mustangs, your story needs to have clearly defined rules to sound plausible. For example, can your horses talk? Do people understand them? Are there different languages to learn, or language barriers? Can young horses talk the same was as the adults? Are certain breeds more desirable? Do certain breeds or colors stick out? Can horses speak with other animals or creatures in your story? Can they do magic or do they have powers...The list goes on and on!

Designing your Characters

Once you've picked "rules" for your world (whether it's a normal world, or a fantasy realm) you can go about designing your characters. Based on whatever rules you've developed, you can now design a horse that either fits into the world, or sticks out like a sore thumb. Get your physical traits taken care of - height, age, weight, gender...then start to work on your horses history, it's skills, it's weaknesses, wants/needs and so on.

Again, make sure there is balance when designing your characters. Having a "dark past" isn't always the best excuse for characters who are mean or spiteful. However, a cheerful, happy character that comes from a dark or painful history...now that's a character I want to know more about! When I design my characters I like to go as far as picking their "themesong" or drawing up a character sheet for them -- go wild!

I like to point out that having characters who are less-than-attractive or not at the pinnacle of youth isn't a bad thing. There are less and less "normal" characters out there, to the point where normal is becoming strange and perfection is acceptable. Try to get out of the box a little. Go for the overweight shetland pony over the Olympic warmblood, or the boyish Arabian mare in lieu of the Adonis-like Lusitano stallion, or go gelding, silly, fun over dark, brooding, and spiteful. If you design your character well, you can bring even the most humdrum things to life.

Choosing a Name

Some people choose a name well before they ever design their characters, some people choose them afterwards, and sometimes the name doesn't come for a long time. Whatever your method is, don't worry. There's no "wrong" way to do this. Well...

Writing Horse Fiction - Characters

The best advice I can give when choosing a name is to choose something that fits with your story, your time frame, demographics, and of course, your character. Even if you're writing about fantasy, it's important to try and be accurate to your time period. For example, if you're writing a story set in Spain, 1650 its unlikely that your horses name is going to be Chad or Twitter. It's also unlikely that your horse will be a warmblood or Icelandic pony. Why? Because these things aren't native to Spain, 1650. On the flip side, if your horse is an Andalusian stallion named Bolero -- that's likely but it's also common. There are a lot of Andalusian's in Spain (even moreover in 1650!) So it's unlikely that your character will be "one of a kind" for the time period...but that's okay! Often the best stories happen to ordinary characters who become extraordinary through circumstance, instead of choice.

When you have a fictional/fantasy character it's unlikely they will have normal names (unless of course, they're fantasy characters that live in our world) but if they live on planet Equipidon, you probably wont see too many Tom, George and Fred's up there! Making up names isn't always as easy as it sounds though. I try to avoid names that are difficult to pronounce/read (Xisghsadrada, Phyzirismatltido, Wxrth, etc.) When I make up names I try to take apart words that I like, or reassemble words that already exist. (Coraline instead of Caroline, Annajill instead of Jillian, Arepo, which is Opera backwards...and so on.)

You can find great names everywhere. When I'm looking for names I like to skim the credits of movies, read graffiti, check out old history textbooks, check out new artists on iTunes, read pedigrees of old horses, or look up brand names in foreign countries. You'd be amazed at where you can find a good name!

Time to go to The Zoo!

People who have read my writing before are probably very familiar with "the zoo" by now. "The Zoo" is a place I use to test drive my new characters. It may seem a little weird at first, but let me explain.

You've just developed that hot and spicy new character. You have their history outlined on 20 pages of notebook paper, and wrote up all of their character traits. But are they good characters? Do they work for your story? A good way to test them out is to write a fictional scene (as in, something that wont go in your actual book) about your new character going on a trip to the zoo. Are they by themselves or with a group? Do they look at the animals and have a good time? What is their favorite exhibit? What do they notice?

Going to the zoo is how I test my characters. It's a fun way to see how well my characters do in a "real" situation. I write about any part of the zoo I want -- my character stuck at a vending machine, a long line to see the tiger exhibit, being locked in a bathroom, or stealing a toy from the gift shop. Lending my character 2-3 pages as a test drive is a great way to point out character flaws. A character I might've thought looked PERFECT in my notes might get in a real scene and be a total jerk (or make no sense at all!) It may sound a little silly, but it has proven to be a life saver when writing [Gypsy.] The worst situation would be you make a character you love, and get 200 pages into your novel only to realize that your character doesn't fit at all (or makes the story unbearable to read!) We'll talk about ways to get out of a tight situation when we talk about PLOT next, but for now...happy writing, and good luck with your characters!
Writing Horse Fiction - Characters
Writing Horse Fiction - Characters
Horse News More In This Category:  Horse Fiction      Horse News More From This Author:  Artista
halfbrokehorses  
this is amazingly helpful!! thanks heaps :)
  Mar 25, 2011  •  6,322 views
 
Balla Eclectic  MOD 
Excellent article Arista, you've covered everything very thoroughly. I love the going to "The Zoo" idea. What a great way to really iron out any character flaws. Just think, you could publish a series of short stories of your zoo outings. D

One thing for budding writers to remember. If you are serious about getting published, then you must develop your characters with your target reader in mind. Think about things like their gender, age, interests, country, maybe social class, etc. Although this does come more when you actually get down to seriously writing your story, it's still important when developing your characters.
  Mar 25, 2011  •  6,048 views
 
Isadorable  
Great article!!
  Mar 25, 2011  •  6,035 views
 
T W I  
Very, very helpful!
Thanks so much!
  Mar 25, 2011  •  6,042 views
 
Estella Noire  
I'm going to try your zoo idea. :P haha. Very useful article!
  Mar 25, 2011  •  6,014 views
 
Dreamer100  
WOW! This is good. Good job on your book and I hope it gets published. I am sure it is good.
This was a great article and I will use the tips. thank you.
  Mar 25, 2011  •  6,043 views
 
Weber98  
Great article! Can't wait for tips on plot.
  Mar 25, 2011  •  6,038 views
 
Emmurr  
Great article, this really helps, I've never actually developed a character or planned out a story, I just tend to write :P
  Mar 25, 2011  •  6,014 views
 
Wanderin Boy Memorial  MOD 
Wow, great article ! I learned a lot
  Mar 25, 2011  •  6,050 views
 
No Walkin Farms9  
Great article. Some of my best stories have started with characters and then a plot has come along with them as they moved though their world. Not to say that you can't start with a plot and then make up characters. There really isn't a wrong way to write, as long as you're writing.
  Mar 25, 2011  •  6,055 views
 
Untamed Heart  
I like the "Zoo" Idea!!! That is so smart.
  Mar 25, 2011  •  6,033 views
 
lovehorse  
Thanks for the help!
  Mar 26, 2011  •  6,010 views
 
T E M P E S T  
Great article Artista! will definitly keep this in mind when I'm writing.
  Mar 26, 2011  •  6,069 views
 
Painted Destiny  
Great article!
  Mar 26, 2011  •  6,012 views
 
Emma Watson  
ooooooooooooooooooooooooooo i am speachles
  Mar 26, 2011  •  6,034 views
 
MoMoz  
I really want to write a book because my dad is a writer and i just love writing! This definitely helped! Very informative article! I LOVE the zoo idea, that is probably the greatest advice I have heard all day!! haha but hopefully I will be able to develop some good characters for my future story! Thanks!
  Mar 28, 2011  •  6,042 views
 
Run Free  
thanks soooo much for the tips im writing a story for a comp and if i win ill get it published in a magazine!!! so this is helping me get a great story
  Apr 7, 2011  •  6,022 views
 
kingfisher  
greatarticle
  Apr 19, 2011  •  6,011 views
 
lovehorse  
Thanks or sharing, this is very helpful!
  Apr 19, 2011  •  6,010 views
 
Beirut Breeding  
What a fantastic way to develop a character fully- love this!!
  Nov 19, 2014  •  3,924 views
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