Character Development

I was asked about developing characters beyond the typical Q&A worksheet and I didn’t have a readily available answer at the time. If any of you have a book recommendation or website that does an especially good job of developing character, post in the comments.

I touched on the basics of character in the post So You Think You Want To Write a Novel.1 where there are links to character development sheets. Also noted is my way of getting to know my characters. I write short stories as backstory to pinpoint how my character has evolved as a person. This helps me discover what their flaws are and how and why they develop.

Is your storytelling driven by the kind of plot you want to tell, or the character you have in mind? The difference is, are you an external storyteller coming at it from how outside influences act upon the characters, ie, what if an earthquake strikes at the crucial moment of a brain surgery? Or are you inclined to relate the internal aspects of stories ie, what if a mother suffers brain damage during brain surgery and does not recognize her children? NY Book Editors on plot versus character driven.

Either way, your story will have both internal and external aspects, but how you approach the telling of it gives you a point of reference for what genre you are writing in.

I tell stories with an internal approach, character driven stories. If you’ve read my previous posts you might recognize this as being one of the three internal genres, Worldview, Status, or Morality. Whereas an external storyteller falls more in the external genres, such as Western, Love, Thriller, Horror, Action.

Storygrid address the issue of “plot driven” versus “character driven”

“The truth though is that it just doesn’t matter what kind of “What if?” you dream of exploring. The best “plot driven” Stories have compelling protagonists who chase subconscious internal objects of desire while they are also trying to get the President of the United States out of the U.N. before the tidal wave hits. And “character driven” Stories also require compelling quests for conscious external objects of desire, remission from cancer for example, while the lead character struggles with deep subconscious internal objects of desire like the need to attain some kind of meaningfulness before death.”

Let’s assume you have a story premise and that you’ve done a basic profile of your main characters. Knowing your genre gives you the conventions and obligatory scenes that accompany it. Using that criteria you can delve into how your character needs to meet them, and what potential flaws in character can be used to drive the story.

Above all, story is character arc. Every story evolves around the change a character goes through from beginning to end, even if it is a plot driven story.  It is a character’s flaws that readers connect to, and why they get invested in reading your story. That human connection draws them in.

You must give your character something to over come personally, an internal need to satisfy, to be whole and happy. Whether they succeed or not, they have to struggled along the way in an attempt to get there. The obstacles and conflict they encounter along the way are what they act against, it is how they handle them that shows us who they are.

If you are beginning a new story, look closely at your character’s beginning mindset, and where you would like them to end up, that difference is their arc. What flaws can you give them that will create the biggest, most interesting transformation in keeping with your genre’s expectations?

I believe that is how you develop characters that your readers will respond to, be invested in, and want to share with others. And ultimately, that is what makes a good a story. No character sheet or standardized questionnaire will flesh out a character for you.

For more on Character Development…

Libby Hawker’s Take Off Your Pants

John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story

On Reddit there’s an interesting post, Books With The Best Character Development

Additional Resources

Character Flaws

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Woo: Editing

Looking to start the editing process? I am too. I’ve started with Shawn Coyne’s site The Story Grid and am still working my way through it.

I’ve linked to this before but haven’t elaborated on its content. And because I think your time is precious and you should be writing or reading what is most relevant to you I’m only going to briefly say this…I find this site to be the clearest and most effective resource for clarifying your plot, getting down to the very basics of what your story is, and needs to be. Go.

Wednesday Woo: Music to Write By

Hi Gang, Just a short post today since my daughter is leaving for college tomorrow-weeping shall commence at any moment.

If you are a writer who needs or likes music to write to here are a few links that might be of interests.

http://blogs.plos.org/neurotribes/2012/11/15/music-to-write-by-10-top-authors-share-their-secrets-for-summoning-the-muse/

http://musicforwriters.tumblr.com/

http://8tracks.com/explore/writing_inspiration

Wednesday Woo: Writing Communities

One of the many reasons our WriNoShores have continued to get together is the sense of community it gives us. Writing can be a rather lonely endeavor, even when we have the support of friends and family. No one else quite gets the struggle, the joy, and the sorrow of pursuing writing, whether as a hobby or profession.

The thing about these communities is that no one single group fulfills all of your social, emotional or intellectual needs. This necessitates membership is varying types of collectives, be they specific to genre, region, gender, or temperament. They can be serious or lighthearted, concentrated on the craft of writing or the business of publishing. You may outgrow some or redevelop ones you’ve joined years ago, maybe discover new groups that challenge you.

Finding the ones you need that will fulfill where you are in the process can be overwhelming. Here is the beginning of what will be an ongoing resource of communities.

Regional

http://www.nswg.net/

North Shore Writers Group is based in Salem, Massachusetts, but we welcome all writers living on the North Shore — and beyond, if you don’t mind driving! NSWG nurtures writers at all levels by providing supportive feedback and information to help our members grow as writers. Our members are published, multi-published, and not-yet-published, and work in fiction and non-fiction.

http://www.neowa.org/

The New England Outdoor Writers Association is a group of New England-based professional outdoor communicators dedicated to promoting and supporting conservation, natural resources and our outdoor heritage. Membership benefits include a quarterly newsletter, membership directory, conferences and events, writing and photo competitions and craft improvement opportunities.

http://capecodwriterscenter.org/

The mission of the Cape Cod Writers Center is to assist published and aspiring writers of all genres, abilities and ages to develop their writing skills and learn the business of editing, publishing and publicizing; to publicize authors and their works; to provide opportunities for writers to congregate for inspiration, education, and networking; and to introduce readers to authors and their work.

https://www.grubstreet.org/

All writers need insightful readers, inspiration, support, and honest feedback. That’s what GrubStreet provides, in a supportive and thriving community. We offer over six hundred classes and events a year for writers of all genres and ambitions—from first-time poets or fledgling memoirists to MFA graduates and published novelists.

http://www.nhwritersproject.org/

The New Hampshire Writers’ Project (NHWP) supports the development of individual writers and encourages an audience for literature in our state. We are a nonprofit literary arts organization funded by its members as well as organizations and businesses who believe in supporting our region’s writers and literary heritage.

http://www.strawdogwriters.org/

A collaborative open to writers, writing group facilitators, readers, editors, booksellers, publishers and other organizations serving writers, Straw Dog Writers Guild is a vibrant network of resources for the writing community (in the four counties of Western Massachusetts – Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire).

http://www.amherstwriters.com/

AWA is an international community of writing workshop leaders committed to the belief that a writer is someone who writes and that every writer has a unique voice. AWA trains writers to become workshop leaders so that they affirm that commitment in every AWA workshop, with novice writers who have been led to believe they have no voice and with experienced writers who want to hone their craft.

http://www.writersroomofboston.com/

The Writers’ Room of Boston is a nonprofit organization committed to supporting the creation of new literature by providing a secure, affordable work space and an engaged community to emerging and established writers in downtown Boston.  The Room provides 10 private carrels, each of which is furnished with a desk, chair, lamp, power strip, and bookcase.

http://nescbwicritiques.blogspot.com/p/massachusetts-critique-groups.html

Members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators who live in New England can use this blog to find open critique groups.

 

 

 

Wednesday Woo: The Plot Thickens

To plot or not to plot, that is the question.

Not really. You need a plot.

What is a plot you ask?

Nathan Bransford does a good job giving a brief explanation. Do You Have a Plot?

and then there’s this,

25 Ways to Plot, Plan, and Prep Your Story by the adored, but NSFW Chuck Wendig

Need to know if you’re overdoing your plotting?

Janice Hardy’s Fiction University is a wealth of helpful tips such as Too Much of a Good Thing: Over Plotting Your Novel

There are many methods you can utilize to help you plot.

Index Cards

Snowflake Method

Joanna Penn’s Mindmapping

or

Sara Toole Miller’s Mindmapping

Novel Outlining 101

Character Driven Plotting

Adding Subplots

 

Wednesday Woo: Continuing Education

Oops. Been a bit crazy here and I forgot to finish Wednesday’s post this week. Up next week will be plotting.  Belatedly–here’s a lazy ass way to give you a bunch of links at once.

If you are a blogger Jon Morrow’s site is essential reading. Boost Blog Traffic

This post is about educating yourself continuously on the craft of writing, 9 Essential Books for Writers.

 

 

Dorothy Cora Moore today, author of Writing Made Easy: How to Develop a Tight Plot & Memorable Characters. Dorothy is both a novelist and screenwriter, – See more at: http://writershelpingwriters.net/2014/05/michael-crichtons-method-plotting-story/#sthash.HH9Y5X87.dpuf
Dorothy Cora Moore today, author of Writing Made Easy: How to Develop a Tight Plot & Memorable Characters. Dorothy is both a novelist and screenwriter, – See more at: http://writershelpingwriters.net/2014/05/michael-crichtons-method-plotting-story/#sthash.HH9Y5X87.dpuf
Dorothy Cora Moore today, author of Writing Made Easy: How to Develop a Tight Plot & Memorable Characters. Dorothy is both a novelist and screenwriter, – See more at: http://writershelpingwriters.net/2014/05/michael-crichtons-method-plotting-story/#sthash.HH9Y5X87.dpuf

Dorothy Cora Moore today, author of Writing Made Easy: How to Develop a Tight Plot & Memorable Characters. Dorothy is both a novelist and screenwriter, – See more at: http://writershelpingwriters.net/2014/05/michael-crichtons-method-plotting-story/#sthash.HH9Y5X87.dpuf
Dorothy Cora Moore today, author of Writing Made Easy: How to Develop a Tight Plot & Memorable Characters. Dorothy is both a novelist and screenwriter, – See more at: http://writershelpingwriters.net/2014/05/michael-crichtons-method-plotting-story/#sthash.HH9Y5X87.dpuf

Wednesday Woo: Beta Readers

Mom has read your book, heaped praise upon your head for its cleverness, and depth of human emotion, then proceeded to tell everyone she knows that it is the best thing she’s ever read. Congrats.

But unless your mother is an editor at Doubleday, your book still needs some help. Help in the form of beta readers, especially those willing to risk bruising your ego to assist you in putting out a quality product.

What constitutes a quality product is subjective, even the most poorly written work’s premise can still be a good story. This is a compilation of views on what a bad book is or isn’t–The Top 40 Bad Books.

Let’s assume you’re looking to produce something to be proud of. You’ve done all you can by ensuring it is your very best work to date, and have put in the grueling hours of revisions and edits. It is now time to let someone else give you their two cents.

I’m serious about you needing to care about the product you’re sending out into the world. It represents you. It says something about who you are as writer and a person. As a reader, I have no respect for writers who ask me to shell out my hard earned money for something they didn’t deem worthy enough to seek help with.

Sure, there are a few writers able to edit their own work, just as there are beta readers whose skills are on par with a professional content editor, but they are few and far between.

Stop resisting doing the right thing for expediency. Get your beta readers lined up and let them fire away. How to Find A Beta Reader

Beta Reader Guidelines

Self-publishing is far too easy. It means anyone can do it regardless of quality, regardless of the consumer, regardless of how this reflects on other self-published authors. Vanity publishing serves only ego, not the craft of writing, or the business of being an author.

Here’s a test. Would you be embarrassed to send your book to a traditional publisher, or a literary agent? Then stop right there. Save up every penny you can, put off publishing for a year, even two, get yourself a professional content editor and polish that work till it shines. Only then, when it is worthy of it’s price tag, release it into the world amid as much fanfare as you can muster knowing you’ve done the best job you possible could, for yourself, your fellow authors, your readers and the self-publishing industry as a whole.

15 Ways to Find a Beta Reader

How to Tackle Those Critique Notes

Beta Readers on deviant Art

6 Tips for Picking Your Beta Readers

Wednesday Woo: The Importance of Professionals

If you intend to self-publish you’ve inevitably come to the question of whether or not you need to hire professional editors, book cover designers or marketers.

The answer is YES, on all counts. The importance of professionals can not be underestimated. I will concede that there are very particular circumstances in which forgoing the pros can be acceptable. For instance, if this a vanity publication and you are doing it just for the satisfaction of seeing your name in print. You can probably skip spending the money on the pros.

Do you expect to, or need to make a profit from publishing this book? Or will you be happy to have your friends and family buy your work?

Do you aspire to have your book in retail outlets and wish to reach a wide audience?

Discriminating book buyers will not find your work acceptable if it hasn’t been polished.

To put the best product out there you’ll need an editor.

Here are a few why’s, how-tos and how not to of hiring an editor.

http://writerunboxed.com/2010/03/19/should-you-hire-a-professional-editor/

http://www.copyblogger.com/professional-self-publishing/

http://writersinthestorm.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/hiring-a-professional-editor-shrewd-or-shameful/

http://thefutureofink.com/self-published-books-dont-sell/

http://www.the-efa.org/res/rates.php

http://katiemccoach.com/2013/11/developmental-editing-what-is-it-exactly/

 

 

 

Wednesday Woo: Structure

Whether you are in the plotting stage, or revision phase many of us are searching for ideas on how to structure our stories. I don’t think there is one way, or a right way to address structure other than it has to move the reader through your story so that they are compelled to keep reading.

You needn’t stringently follow prescribed structures but there are tradition among genre to adhere to certain formulas so particular attention should be paid as to whether your story is good enough to break those norms. And you need to have a grasp on the expectation of your readers. Being well read in the genre you are writing for helps with that.

Here’s a little cheat sheet on the questions you should be asking yourself about how your novel is structured. Dummies Guide to Writing a Novel: The Structure of Your Novel.

The structure of a story depends on who is telling the story, what type of story it is, and whether it is character or plot driven. This Writer’s Digest post can help you think about choosing a structure.

I think beginning writers sometimes fear being hemmed in by rules but these guides are meant to help you manage the unwieldiness of a novel not curtail your creative process. Think of structure guidelines as the framework that supports your creativity.

This is a basic look at structure that can serve the needs of both first time and seasoned writers. Daily Writing Tips: How to Structure a Story.

A couple more of my favorite takes on structure:

Chuck Wendig: 25 Things You Should Know About Structure

Kristen Lamb: Structure Part 1-Anatomy of a Bestselling Novel–Structure Matters

A few specific to genre:

Memoir

Romance

Sci-Fi

Wednesday Woo: Useful Links

Hi WriNos,

In a concerted effort to be more productive I’ve decided to do a post on Wednesdays thinking I might be able to remember Write WriNoShore WordPress Website Woo (stands for winning others over).

I’ll keep it short, only a few links to those article/posts or essays I found especially helpful or inspirational.

So here’s the Woo for the week.

http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/5-scientifically-proven-ways-to-work-smarter-not-harder-tues.html

http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/writing-the-perfect-scene/

I’m given Paolo Nutini an extra hoo to go with that woo. Swoon worthy.