Monday, February 23, 2015

Strong Female Character: Kate Beckett

*There will be minor spoilers in this post for the TV show Castle * 

Last year my family and I discovered Castle. It quickly became one of my top 5 favorite TV shows, and I fell in love with the characters. While I could rant and rave about each character individually (and maybe I will one day), we're here to talk about strong female characters. In particularly: Detective Kate Beckett.

Detective Kate Beckett

Katherine "Kate" Beckett is a NYPD Homicide detective, and the youngest woman in the history of the NYPD to become a detective. Instead of attending law school and accomplishing her dream to become the first female Chief Justice, she went into homicide so that she could solve her mother's murder. 

How does she come across to others? 
This is an important question to ask when creating a strong female character. How others react to her, work with her, and what they think of her are important clues into just how strong your character is. 

For Beckett, she is viewed with respect. 
  • Her superiors consider her to be their best, and one even laid down his life for her. 
  • Her team, consisting of Detectives Kevin Ryan and Javier Esposito, would do anything for her, from covering for her when she goes off the books to going to no ends to save her life. 
  • Her partner, Richard Castle, bases the main character of an entire book series on her, eventually falling head over heels for her. 
  • Suspects in homicide cases soon learn she is not to be messed with, and as for her enemies, well let's just say if they make the mistake of underestimating her, they often don't end up in the best place. 

How does she treat others? 
Beckett will stop at nothing to get the truth. If this means roughing up some suspects, that's what she'll do. 

She treats her superiors with respect but won't hesitate to voice her own opinions and fight for what she believes. She treats her team as equals, listens to their opinions, takes their advice. Though her patience is often tested, she eventually learns to accept and take the harebrained advice her partner, Castle, gives and comes to depend on his insights. She is kind to Castle's daughter, Alexis, and takes the time to meet with her as an older friend whenever Alexis needs advice. When it comes to the families of victims, she is considerate and gentle when breaking the news and talking about sensitive materials. 

So who is Kate Beckett? 

She is a detective, a daughter, a defender. She's not afraid to get her hands dirty and, as I mentioned before, will work nonstop to get the truth. She is smart, clever, talented, courageous. She's stubborn, driven, confident, and loyal. She's the kind of person on which you could always depend. She's funny, lovely, and strong, both mentally and physically. Being a cop, she's also a realist, as she constantly points out; she likes the facts, and there is always a reasonable explanation to everything. In all honesty, she's a total badass. But that's just one side, and in order to have a well-balanced, strong character, there has to be a darker side. 

Beckett is haunted by her mother's murder. It once led her to a very dark place, and as we go through the series, she is practically forced back into following that path. It leads to mental struggles and physical pain, including a bullet to the heart. She is someone who is reluctant to reveal anything personal about herself and unwilling to show signs of weakness. When it comes to those she loves, she has a temper that will get the job done but in a bit of a graceless way. However, she pushes those closest to her away in order to remain in control and safe. 

She has a vulnerable side. 
  • She is vulnerable when it comes to her mother's murder and lets people get under her skin. 
  • She's vulnerable when it comes to the man she loves. 
  • She suffers from PTSD after being shot and struggles with finding her way back. 

Kate is also a prankster, a loving partner, and totally adorable; she once orchestrated an elaborate fake murder just to keep Castle from being bored when he broke his leg. After a near death experience, she quit the force because all she could think about was being with Castle. 

Oh, and she also loves dogs, so that says a million other things about her as well:

As this is a character on a TV show, I have to mention the actress portraying Kate Beckett as well. Stana Katic is an absolutely brilliant actress. I've talked about the "GIRL OVERBOARD" concept in my original strong female characters post, in which how many female characters are portrayed as over the top, annoying characters, drawing on strength from being better than anyone else. Though credit goes to the writers for creating such an amazing, deep character, a lot of the weight also falls on the way an actress portrays her character. Stana Katic is spot on; she portrays Kate with a sense of self-confidence that oozes strength and grace, yet knows how to keep her down-to-earth and real (her portrayal of Beckett going through post-traumatic stress had me shaking and bawling my eyes out, and as someone who has PTSD, it was the moment I truly fell in love with Kate Beckett). So bravo, Miss Katic, and I hope to see you portraying this character for a long time to come. 

What can I take away from this character?

Always remember to give your character a dark side. Perhaps there is true evil in her, perhaps it is more of an internal struggle. Maybe it is a secret, or a vulnerability. You can go strong or light depending on what you want the focus to be. Whatever it is, make it relatable and believable. Draw on backstory to ground your character. Balance!

 If you can't take something away from your character, no one else will either, and you'll have created an uninteresting character that readers quickly forget about. If you are a Castle fan, what do you like about Kate Beckett? What do you dislike? I'd love to hear in the comments what each of you take away from this character. 

Please feel free to give any other suggestions on female characters to study! Comment below, on Pinterest, or email me. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Review: Character Writer 3.1

A while back I purchased the Character Writer 3.1 from The Writer's Store. I had been looking for different writing softwares when this popped up, on sale, and after researching it a bit I decided to make the purchase. I was hoping this software would be an amazing tool for developing characters because there's nothing I love more than sitting down and developing a new life for a new story.

A month ago I moved, and ever since then have been sick and pretty much holed up in my living room, stealing my dad's comfy green recliner. The excessive time I've had to just sit and think produced another story idea, and finally I had time to really sit down and use that Character Writer. So here's what I found...

When you first open Character Writer 3.1, you can immediately start filling in a character's basic information, from their name to their catchphrase and story goal. A file can be made for each story/novel you are working on, and within that file you can have a subfile created for each character.

From there you simply keep hitting the continue button, answering basic physical appearance questions and then, my favorite, personality questions. This program takes you through the Enneagram personality-typing system to help you better understand just where your character is coming from. 

After choosing a type, you then answer a series of questions based on your choice that will start making you reevaluate your character's background and story goal. You can also choose multiple disorders, from personality to psychotic to sleep disorders. You can honestly have a heyday reading about each disorder and applying different ones to your characters...just make sure you stick to what really fits your character, because it's easy to go overboard. *cough*

After the psychology of your character is founded, then you can dig into background. What makes your character do what he does? What significant event in his past made her like this? You answer another series of questions, all different but set up the same way, before heading into dialogue and relationships. 

If you have created more than one character, there is a relationship generator in which you can enter in a secondary character's type and see how he or she might react with the main character. It's a handy little tool to see just how these two people might clash or work together in real life. Here's an example from one of my own projects in which my main character, a type 5, is placed against his love interest, a type 8, and his sister, a type 9: 

By this point, you've completed most of your character development. There are further pages to write out story beats, note sheets, specific scenes that come to your head, etc., but the meat of it is done, and believe you me, I'm always exhausted by this point. 


While this program is extensive, one thing I would still recommend is taking a piece of paper and writing out your character basics first. Write a brief description of their background, their interests, what they want. It will make the process go by much faster and you won't feel the need to skip around or "come back to it later," and it will allow for more creativity when it comes to fleshing out details.

The Character Writer 3.1 is an excellent tool for getting to know your characters deeply and solidifying their story in your mind; it's more than a character writer, but really helps you grasp where you want your story to go. After using this, I felt more prepared to write my novel. The program definitely works best for main characters, or any character you want to flesh out, but you can still use the basics to keep an eye on your secondary characters. 

Overall, I'd give the program 4.5 out of 5 stars and would recommend it to anyone looking for help in developing better characters. If you're interested, you can buy the program here. Let me know if you've tried the program and what your thoughts are!

(**Please note that I was not given a trial run from The Writer's Store in exchange for a review, but simply purchased the program on my own and wanted to post a review so other's might know about it.)