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Writer Notes - Characters by DarkDelusion Writer Notes - Characters by DarkDelusion
In my Basic Description tutorial I did mention characters briefly. However here is some more details when writing your characters.

Note: Most of my tutorials while they cover “writing”, they are more geared towards Fantasy writers.


Beautiful People - One flaw I see in new writers is that almost all of their characters are “beautiful”. They bear no birthmarks (unless in the shape of some magick chalice or other “prophesied” symbol etc), no scars, no pock-ed skin. Their hair is always shimmery and silky, skin flawless and with glistering sapphire (or other “gem” coloured) eyes.

Just to be clear when I use the word “beautiful” here, it is just a word that helps to describe the issue. After all, everyone’s idea of beauty is different. If all your characters are skinny, or muscular, or all have long hair, or short… whatever your personal image of beauty is, I guarantee it will feature heavily in your writing.

Now there is nothing wrong with having “beautiful” characters, especially if you write fantasy because that’s what it is Fantasy! But don’t over do it. Not every character should have “flowing hair” and “radiant skin”. Also, don't read this and then make all your minor characters mundane to compensate.

Everyone, even the most beautiful people in the world have flaws and faults. Give your character some, of at least SOME of your characters flaws and faults – these are what make people different!


Here’s some additional points in the same vein

Jewels - Try to limit the number of gem-coloured references. Sapphire or emerald eyes, ruby lips are okay and can sometimes work. But they have been done to death so it can be easy to fall into the trap of using them in place of more suitable words. Also, don’t use them immediately. Maybe you introduce your character as having watery green eyes… only when angered does the true iridescent emerald of the iris’s show. See?


Skin - Try and stay away from “alabaster or milky skin”. Fantasy writers love pale skin, whether it’s because we often enjoy reading vampire novels where almost all caucasion vampires are deathly white or whether Snow White was pivotal for you, just try and rein in your obvious and cliché adjectives. The same applies for dark skin – using the description of “chocolate coloured skin” is pretty crude. Also, does your world even HAVE chocolate? If it's a historical novel, you may find chocolate had not been created in the time period you’re working. Try and use a reference that makes sense both to your reader and to your world/characters etc.


Minor descriptions - Do not get locked into describing the same five points (eyes / hair / skin / height / age). We are not defined by our looks and if we were we certainly wouldn’t be just these five! Firstly, build on these. Don’t just do colour of the hair, what about length, texture, style?

Example: The woman had long blonde hair in curls and tied up in a ponytail. It was shiny in the candlelight.

Example: The woman’s wild tresses were pinned high on her head yet still fell to the middle of her back. In the candle light her hair looked almost golden. Like all highborn ladies, the hair was brushed with a 100 strokes each morning until it shone.

Here we have a colour, a style, we can tie in her status and a little of the culture of that status and then the texture/condition.


Major descriptions – Before writing anything, think about your characters (this includes minor characters too). Put down the main points but what else? Do they walk tall and proud? Do they shuffle? Do they have a limp? If so why? Are they missing limbs or digits? If so, why? Do they have curvy bodies, in women is this seen as a sign of fertility? In men is it seen as a weakness? Is their skin marked, scarred, are these accidents/birthmarks or tribal markings to show reaching of an age?

Do they have rough hands from working in a forge? Are they always tanned from working outside? Do they have ink stained fingers if they write a lot? What about bad breath or does their hair smell of jasmine?

Do they have a gutteral gruff voice? Is that because of where they are from or because they smoke a pipe often? Do they sing? Are they mute? Do they have an accent?

Remember what I mentioned in the Basic Description tutorial – USE THE SENSES. What do they LOOK like? What do they SMELL like? What do they SOUND like? What do they FEEL like?

Now move to mannerisms – quirks. We all have them. Whether it's checking your bag twenty times to make sure your keys are definite in there. Or cracking your knuckles. Or how about humming if you’re nervous?


3-Dimensional – Make your characters 3 dimensional. Start small and build up. If you are not sure how, look at the above. When you get to mannerisms, expand that. Why does your main character crack his knuckles? Did his father do it and he’s picked up the habit? Does he like doing it to remind him of his father now passed away? Why does your female character hum when she’s nervous? Did she used to go that as a child to drown out the screams between her parents when they argued?

It is a lazy writer who only makes notes on the basic descriptions. Basic is fine for minor characters, however even minor characters should have something about them.

Remember these little quirks can add a whole new dimension to your characters and bring out personality / issues / back story. These can then spiral out into NEW ideas whether for the story you are writing or maybe another.

Example: I have a character in my novel, he is a Port Master who takes the tithes from the ships when they dock. He is in the novel for one small scene. I give minimal description but during the scene it comes to light he is taking tithes that he does not record in the log book. He justifies these as he has been robbed several times and each time, the amount lost has been docked from his wages. By stealing monies, he is protecting his wage.


Props – You can bring out a character with props, not just mannerisms and descriptions. Does your main character carry a cane? Does your heroine smoke a pipe? Are they drunkards, always seen with a flask tucked in their waistband? Tip : Try to steer away from magic pendants, rings or chalices.


Don’t Tell Me Your Character’s look – I am your reader. I do not want to read a whole paragraph about the looks and quirks of a character every time one is introduced. The rule of thumb is give two pieces of description when you introduce a character and build the picture slowly throughout the story.

So, we meet a traveller on his way to the next village. For a young man he is walking with a severe limp usually seen only in the elderly. On his feet the tatty boots are falling apart from the long journey he has undertaken and are no longer giving him protection against the stony path.

From this we learn he is young, he has travelled far, maybe he is poor and has been unable to buy new boots, looks scruffy? Already from this you will have an image in your head and I have not yet told you his eye or hair colour. Don’t assume the main descriptions need to be the usual five! Be different when introducing a character.

As a reader I want you to show me your character. I want to see the desperation as he fights to stay out of the tavern. I don’t want you telling me he’s a drunk. I want to see the young woman hiding behind her veil, with only the scars in her eyes to tell me she is no longer the beauty in the realm. I don’t want you to tell me her face was slashed by a scorned lover so she hides it.

Take the time to learn about your characters before you introduce them to your readers. Let them grow and develop.


Don't Pigeon Hole Characters – So you have created a character and planned him/her to do something specific and to be a certain time of character. If you stick rigidly to this, you may find your writing becomes stagnant and stunted. One reason for this is your character will naturally evolve and change and develop as you write. If you try and keep your character pigeonholed to the original design, you are not doing your writing justice. Many writers state that characters do sometimes appear to change in a way they never expected and this can change the writing.

Don't get me wrong, you are still the writer and a character should not dictate your writing but you must understand your work will evolve and your characters may change from what you originally started with.


People Watching – Finally, if you want to write good characters get out and People Watch. This is great if you have to wait for buses or travel on the train or be in any place were there are random people walking, sitting, talking etc. The different looks of people can inspire you. Maybe you haven't got the image of your realm lord or queen.

Take the time to watch how people move, walk, talk, stand as well as their general looks. See how they favour one hand over the other, how they react when talking or watching other people. Human behaviour is a wonderful inspiration for characters.

We react in ways we don't even realise, body language etc – it's all things as writer should be aware of and people watching can help.

NOTE: Do not be obvious, staring at people can upset, annoy or intimidate people so remember to be subtle.


NOTICE TO ALL WRITERS
My writing blog is now up and running, it will be filled with more tutorials, hints, tips, tricks and general writer ramblings as well as features and competitions. Please visit at [link]
Add a Comment:
 
:iconquietprofesional:
QuietProFesional Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Professional Writer
I love this alone!
'NOTE: Do not be obvious, staring at people can upset, annoy or intimidate people so remember to be subtle.'
Ahahhahaha!
I have accidentally stared (It's no store is it :/) at people, but that's been cause I've been imagining my story while just looking off into oblivion! xD
Reply
:iconzahdernia:
Zahdernia Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow, this was written a few years ago. Usually I'd be too shy to comment on something that was from over about two months old, but I feel the need to say that these notes were quite well-written and helpful. It opened my eyes to quite a few things that I had been doing more often than I thought and other things I never even thought of.

Thank-you for uploading this! It's a great help! c:
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:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2013
Hi May

Thanks for dropping me a comment, even I didn't realise how long ago it was when I wrote this. I am glad you felt comfortable enough to comment, I am always happy to receive notes or comments.

I am glad you found this tutorial helpful. I really enjoy writing tutorials and helping other writers. :) I hope you find time to look through my other tutorials.

Good luck with your writing
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:iconzahdernia:
Zahdernia Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:nod: Time sure can fly, hmm? And I'm glad that you're being a kind person to me right now! :D Major confidence lift. 

That's so kind of you! C: And yeah, I was planning on doing that pretty soon, to be honest. I went onto your blog and made sure to follow you so I wouldn't miss a thing!

Thank-you so much!~ I wish you the same. c:
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:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2013
Thank you hun, your comment was very sweet to read.

I am so glad you are following my blog and I will apologise now for the lack of entries. This will change as soon as the holiday season is over and I can get my butt in gear and get writing more tutorials!
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:iconzahdernia:
Zahdernia Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
^w^ :nod: 

No need to apologise! I understand completely- running a blog can be time consuming and it can get pushed back behind other things when a lot appears on one's schedual. Either way, I cannot wait to see more! :heart:

Also, happy holidays to you!
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:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2013
And happy hols to you, I hope you have something nice planned :)

Take care hun
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:iconzahdernia:
Zahdernia Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank-you! ^w^

And you too!~
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:iconwarriorcats16678:
warriorcats16678 Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2013  Student Writer

Lol! That's funny. I made a vampire, but for some odd reason I made him have tan skin instead of pale. Kind of weird. I didn't even really think about it.

 

(**Vampire Sparkles!**)

Reply
:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2013
Tan skinned vampires are fine, especially if they are of a nationality that has naturally tanned skin. If they are a tanned person, then without the constant sunlight to continue their tan, maybe it would eventually fade.

I like the idea that a vampire's skin is not always deathly white, especially after they have fed. It adds a nice dimension to their looks.
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:iconwarriorcats16678:
warriorcats16678 Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2013  Student Writer
Well, Nathan(my character), isn't like a usual vampire. He's a little different. He doesn't follow all the rules your everyday vampires do.
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:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2013
I think the rules for vampires have been changed lots by many different people. I think you're fine :)
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:iconwarriorcats16678:
warriorcats16678 Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2013  Student Writer
Yeah. That's true.
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:iconastrikos:
Astrikos Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2013   General Artist
Featured your helpful deviation here. :love:
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:iconabbx901:
Abbx901 Featured By Owner May 17, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I remembered a girl in a story, who always went like, "You know, this was good and all, but life and all are so miserable and damn unlucky, that you really can't have it all, and that makes me sad and all, you know?"

Most agreeable point: witness characters.

However, I think using gems, referring to skin etc. albeit sparingly may be useful.
Reply
:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2013
Thanks for the comment and apologies for the uber delay.

I do know what you mean using gems for skin/eye description however it is so overdone, it is often best to avoid it especially with new writers. Until they have developed their descriptive skills.

It can be so easy to fling in sapphire eyes or alabaster skin yet I think anything that is considered cliche, which these are, should be used with care and thought given rather than the fast "I need to describe blue eyes... ooh Sapphires!" that sometimes occurs.

I have read so many stories by people on dA and there was a staggering amount that used gems as descriptive terms. You are totally right, it does need to be done more sparingly. I just think many people don't realise that.

Do you write? What genre do you like to write in most may I ask? I always enjoy finding out what people like to write.
Reply
:iconmoonstreamfeline:
MoonstreamFeline Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I see! this really gives you good ideas. Inspire me - I'm beginning to feel more like a real author!
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:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2013
I am so pleased you are inspired and I really hope you do well with your writing.

Apologies if I already mentioned this but...

As an FYI - I am hoping to get myself started with a writing blog where I can go into more detail with my tutorials, cover additional information like world creation, discuss ways of preparing stories for editors, have competitions etc etc. (this has been a long time coming)

Due to some personal stuff all this has been shoved on the back burner however I am fiercely trying to get myself back to having time and energy to start the blog. One part of it will be a "submit a suggestion" where budding writers can drop me a note asking for specific tutorials (and if it's something I can do) I will add it to my list.

If you would be interested in seeing my writing blog when it gets up and running, please let me know and drop me your email in a note on dA. That way I can just send a blanket email to everyone who has shown interest when it's up and running.

Good luck with your writing and do feel free to note or drop me a comment any time.
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:iconmoonstreamfeline:
MoonstreamFeline Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I'd love to see that blog! I'll give you my email by note...
Have a nice day! and thank you! :3
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:iconmindlesspuppettoy:
mindlesspuppettoy Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Very nicely put. From one writer to another, I think you did good to mentioned a lot of things that beginning writers, and even more experienced ones, often fall into the habit of doing. Great job! :D
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:iconmoonstreamfeline:
MoonstreamFeline Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I agree!! this is a great tutorial!
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:iconmindlesspuppettoy:
mindlesspuppettoy Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you! I was glad to stumble upon it.
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:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013
Thank you kindly for your comment on my writing tutorial (apologies for the horrendous delay in replying, I have been sidetracked recently and not had much time to get on dA).

What sort of things do you write (genre wise)? How long have you been writing? Do you do it just as a hobby or do you also have work published (if not, are you hoping to one day)?
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:iconmindlesspuppettoy:
mindlesspuppettoy Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
It's no problem! I write fantasy mainly. I've written some non-fiction, but mainly fantasy and sci-fi. I'm working on getting my first book published. I also am about to get some short stories published in a couple magazines soon, and I've been featured several times in my local newspaper.
Reply
:iconlightninglcie:
LightningLCie Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
Wow, thanks1 Brilliant tutorial!
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:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012
^-^ aww thank you, I am glad you like it. Do you do a lot of writing yourself? When I finally get my writing blog up and running I will be hopefully expanding on a lot of my current tutorials as well as including template sheets for plot design and character profiles etc
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:iconlightninglcie:
LightningLCie Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
Ah, I just do drabbles. Whenever I try to write something longer, I just crack and give up. But I like to draw mini stories for my characters.
Reply
:icondainamix:
DAINAMIX Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2012  Student Filmographer
ummm ... your ideas are so helpful , I dont really like to write ( even thought people tell me you have a style , in my own language not English) but I love to be a director for the 3D movies I think about , and making the story line of movies , characters or animating them needs taking care of same tips you were saying , but can you give me your opinion about something in my gallery called "Just been Killed" sorry my mobile doesnt support links!I need a comment on the story not the writing skilles Thanks
Reply
:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2012
Thank you for your comments, I never thought that my tutorials would be used by those who look in another artistic direction.

I will read your piece, give me a few days as I am limited on the internet right now but I shall read and leave you comment.
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:icondainamix:
DAINAMIX Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2012  Student Filmographer
I think writing is the mother for artistic directions like my interests, and they almost need same vision , so your tutorials are certinly helpful for people more than you think , but currently I am limited with my mobile so it would be much appruciated if you could give me a link for another one of your tutorials so I can get used of ^.^

and thank you for your interest to read my thingi , take your time , I really like to meet people with a wide vision like you :D
Reply
:iconerinm31:
ErinM31 Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2012
All very good advice! :nod:

For that last one, very dark sunglasses may help! ;P
Reply
:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner May 1, 2012
And a trench coat?;)
Reply
:icongracefuldemon:
gracefuldemon Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2012  Student Writer
I am going to stalk the people in the phantom village I live in. You just wait! :evillaugh:
... Oh, who am I kidding? Nobody ever leaves their house here! I'll be dead before I spot a person walking down the sidewalk. *facepalm*
Anyway... I have been reading your tutorials and I really like them. :love:
I confess, the idea of taking notes intimidates me a little (even if I am aware that I must do it) :giggle:
So... thank you very much for the tips ;)
Reply
:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2012
lol. I am glad you like my tutorials, I hope you find them useful ^-^

May I ask, why do you find note taking intimidating? Are you looking to write short stories, full novels etc?

I wish you all the best with your writing. I will be hopefully getting through the "pending" list of writing tutorials I have listed on my tutorial journal so there will be more popping up! ^-^
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:icongracefuldemon:
gracefuldemon Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2012  Student Writer
They are useful; yes. :)

Well, everytime I take notes I tend to rely on them, but I always forget to write something down. So I started trusting my mind only to keep in touch with my ideas and all the rest. I write long stories. Usually up to 400.000 words when they're finished. :ashamed: I know it's not huge but... hey! I only write fanfiction :P

Thank you!
I will be looking for your tutorials in the future. (:
Reply
:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2012
I can understand that. Notes are good though, especially if you have notes for a story that might not fit with what you are writing and if you come back to them a year later you might have a WHOLE new story.

Allow your notes to be "stepping stones" where you have a path but not so fixed as a road. You can move and shift and change.

400K words is alot, many novels are around 200K so double that is definitely alot :)
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:icongracefuldemon:
gracefuldemon Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2012  Student Writer
I never forget my ideas... so I don't think I need to take notes... (I am so conceited :XD: )but it's actually true.

That is exactly what I do :) I never put in my mind "Okay, this MUST be in this story and can not be replaced" I try to add the idea anyway, but if it doesn't work... ah well, it doesn't work. There is nothing I can do about it.

Really? I always thought 400K was the normal size... :ashamed:
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:iconkiriramdeo:
KiriRamdeo Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
Again you have great writing tutorials. They're short and to the point and they're along the lines of the college courses I took to finish my degree. Great how-tos!
Reply
:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2011
Thank you, it has been lovely to see so many positive comments on my writing tutorials. I am happy that people have found them so useful. I wish you luck with all your writing.
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:iconkiriramdeo:
KiriRamdeo Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
You are most welcome :)
Reply
:iconsarafan206:
Sarafan206 Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2011  Student General Artist
I have a lot of books in process... a LOT of books... I have a very short attention span... but I read this and can see how this can help me. I was wondering if you had any tips to keep my focused on my writing. I'm only 14 but I love to write and I want to be an author when I grow up, and I am told (not just by my parents thank goodness) that I am very creative and I already have the people watching thing figured out so some of the stuff here I already have down but you're right; I usually make my characters perfect. I try not to; I've recently become aware of that flaw in my writing and am improving quickly. I appriciate you writing this it is helping me a lot and if you can give me any help on keeping my focus I would be eternally greatful.
Reply
:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2011
Hi, sorry for the delay in replying, I just haven't had time to get on dA recently.

Firstly, thank you for your comment and I am glad you have found my tutorials useful. I have a number of them to write (listed on my current journal and add to them as and when an idea comes up).

Focus can be difficult. I also have several books/series on the go and it can be a nightmare to keep yourself focused. The best way is to make a specific time for your writing, find time to write and write! Trying to write at the same time every day can be useful to focus you, as you have it scheduled. So if you have dinner at 5pm, homework at 6pm and then writing at 7pm for an hour.

It can also help that when you finish that day's writing, make a note/list of what you want to write tomorrow - whether it's a scene, some notes, ideas, plot line, character detail etc. This will help to stop you from sitting down tomorrow and getting distracted or else having writer's block.

When I write (especially scenes) I often have a list at the end of the scene for things I need to check such as:

* Check the months of harvest for apples (research)
* Does (character A) need meet the hunters before the Priest?
* Should be a scene at the temple before this.

So, when I come to writing the next day I know exactly what I need to do - some research, to answer a question and a new scene.

Also - When you write, make sure phone, instant messenger/internet is not on. These types of distractions can really eat up your time.

Does this help?

Feel free to ask any questions, I am always happy to support new writer's as much as I can.
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:iconsarafan206:
Sarafan206 Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2011  Student General Artist
so glad you could reply to this and i acctually highlighted and copied it to a word account to help me so thanks for that :hug:

i can see why i should keep my phone off (i hate phones anyway so that shouldnt affect me) and i dont have an instant messenger, my only question is the internet thing. i know not to do things such as play on deviantART or read emails or anything, but i sometimes listen to music on youtube when i write. is that included as a distraction? :?
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:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2011
If there is a play list on youtube that allows you to just set it up and let it run, that's fine but if you are having to stop and keep starting new songs it's a distraction as it is stopping your flow. I do like to listen to music when I write - I will even pick specific CDs that I have become "attune" to when writing certain stories.
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:iconsarafan206:
Sarafan206 Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2011  Student General Artist
Okay thanks! I appriciate you taking the time to respond to my questions, you're very helpful :)
Reply
:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2011
Anytime hun, feel free to drop me any questions or queries you have. I will always try and respond as soon as poss.
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:iconkakashi-9:
Kakashi-9 Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
wonderful! this is very useful!
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:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2011
Thank you ^.^ I am glad you found it useful. I will be adding more tutorials periodically and all my writing tutorials are listed on my journal along with a list of pending ones.
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:iconkakashi-9:
Kakashi-9 Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
cool! can't wait! After reading this tutorial i really began to flesh out an idea i had about the plague.... i was really able to improve my character depth!
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:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2011
I'm glad to hear it ^-^
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