CREATING CHARMING CHARACTERS

This is a portion of the talk I gave at Springfield Writers Guild a couple of weeks ago. Hope you get something new from it.
Life’s not about success, it’s about happiness.
In searching for redemption, we find the place we belong
To have a future, we must live with the past.
Dwight Swain states that even the longest book can capture only a tiny segment of a
human being.
Human beings are much too complicated to create them in their entirety. So we as
writers must simplify, and develop our characters to the degree each needs to be
developed in order to fulfill their function in the story. Give an impression and
approximation of life rather than attempting to duplicate life itself.
As the author, you need to know something about your character beyond the story you
are about to write. But don’t spend so much time analyzing them that you get bored and
want to kill them off.
Here are a few basic questions you should ask that will help you begin:
What do they want out of life, and what do they need?
What do they want to accomplish in their life?
What are their beliefs? A kind God? Life sucks or is unfair? Money is more important
than love? Vice Versa. If we are very good we go to Heaven.
Some more questions that will help us know them better are:
Have they ever betrayed or failed anyone?
Has anyone betrayed or failed them? If so, how did it affect their outlook on life?
To uncover your character, have a conversation with her. Sit on your porch or patio and
talk to her. Let her answer in first person. Don’t forget to take notes. This will help you
write your story with more conviction.
You know the joke: Writers are the only people who hear voices and aren’t crazy.
Once you know her life story, then it’s time to discover what’s going to fuel your story.
Often we begin with a happy character and it’s up to you to not let up on her until she’s
sad, then finally angry enough to fight back. Learn what she’s afraid of and hit her with
it. What does she regret? Rub her face in it.
Or begin with a sad or angry character and drag her through all it takes to finally
become happy.
Usually, I’ve written at least three chapters before I begin to understand my characters.
By then I know my major characters as well as the direction the story will go. I will
continue to discover things about my characters far into the book. Are they honorable?
Do they keep promises? What are their weaknesses and strengths? First Draft Stuff.
Characters soon become real people. They take over the story line. You may have to
rein them in once in a while, and that’s what happens in real life, isn’t it? We go off on
tangents but life says whoa, you can’t do that. You, as the writer, must make them
behave or in the least make them pay the consequences when they don’t. If you’re too
kind to them your book will be dull and boring.
If you get stuck, have your character write you a letter telling you how she feels about
what’s going on in her life. Often, this will break down the barriers.
Some writers prefer to have the character keep a journal during the writing of the book.
It isn’t included in the book, but will give the writer more insight into this character who
has taken on a life of her own.
A character who is too dumb to live does not charm anyone, so while a flaw or
shortcoming is necessary, don’t overdo it.
On the other hand, she can be larger than life. Maybe she can’t leap tall buildings, but
when cornered she can get herself out of a fix, be it by using her mind or her physical
strength.
Be realistic, though. Create her so she can handle what’s going to happen to her. Not at
first, but she will learn.
One of my favorite characters for flaws, strength and fortitude is Nevada Barr’s Anna
Pigeon. She takes a licking and keeps on ticking. She’s tough and believable and
smart. And Barr never lets up on her throughout the entire book. Once in a while Anna
does something so dumb I want to holler at her, but that makes her human. And boy
does she have regrets. No one is perfect.
Next week: Secondary Characters and Villains
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About veldabrotherton

I'm primarily a writer, but I also speak and teach workshops and co-chair a large critique group. My brand is SexyDarkGritty and that applies to my western historical romances, mysteries, women's fiction and horror novels. After almost 30 years in this business, I still have something to learn and attend conferences to network with other writers, publishers, editors and agents.
This entry was posted in heroes, Velda Brotherton, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to CREATING CHARMING CHARACTERS

  1. Mr Lonely says:

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