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

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing for NaNoWriMo 2018

Greetings WriNoShores and other assorted writer friends!

How about a little warm-up to this year’s NaNoWriMo?

Most of you will have found us through NaNoWriMo, but for those you dragged here by a friend or happenstance, and unfamiliar with this awesome event…read this.

Pantser, Plotter, or Hybrid

For those new to the concepts…a pantser is someone who writes on the fly, a plotter makes decision about their story and and characters before they write, and a hybrid is somewhere in between. How you approach novel writing is personal, and takes time to discover.

My advise is to read about your favorite author’s process. Two books I recommend are Stephen King’s On Writing and Elizabeth George’s Write Away. Both are masters in their genres, and attack writing from very different perspectives.

I’m going to keep this post short and poll you on the Facebook Page as to what subjects you might like to delve into, or questions you might have about writing, and NaNoWriMo. Feel free to ask here too if FB isn’t your thing. Or follow us on Twitter.

More info for newbies and prepping for this November event can be found here on the NaNoWriMo website.

 

–Lynne

 

 

 

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