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What a character

I admire how writers like Suzanne Brockmann can make characters who seem so real they practically step out of the book and shake your hand. They’re like old friends by the time the book is done.

I was lucky enough to attend a chapter meeting on Saturday where another master writer, Linda Howard, presented a workshop on characterization. What she calls creating the character’s voice (not to be confused with the writer’s voice). Basically, learning to write so that your characters’ personalities come through.

She took paragraphs sent in by chapter members, and added her own words to them to create a short scene that left no doubt of the character’s world view. Were they sarcastic, lacking confidence, egotistical? She nailed it every time.

Her word choices made it clear how that character viewed the situation, gave them attitude, thoughts, and individuality

Along the way, she also gave some good tidbits of advice that I thought I’d pass along (in my own words).

  • Don’t be afraid to go off on tangents because those are what tell the reader about your character.
  • Your word choice should be specific to each mood and character. The reader should be able to tell whose POV the scene is in, even if you leave their name out.
  • Characterization is most important early on in the book when you’re trying to capture and hold the reader’s interest. The best plot in the world won’t hold a reader if they don’t care about the characters moving through it.
  • Don’t shortchange the emotion in a scene. If she loved it, tell us why. If he hated it, tell us why.

Writing characters who live and breath on the page is my number one goal. It’s where I’ll be concentrating my efforts in my MS, and in the Sunday Squirrel over the next few weeks. Good luck with your own efforts.

Write on.

0 Comments

  1. Reply

    Oh Gwen, how lucky you were to experience that.

    I agree that characters make or break a story for me. Bringing characters to life is a worthy/ambitious challenge. Good luck with it.

  2. Reply

    I am doing the same thing–focusing on that POV. I so wish I could have been there at the meeting. One of the paragraphs submitted was mine, and I wanted to see what she said. Someone gave me a copy, and from what I read –it was eery how she hit the story/character right on the head.

    But, the bottom line is, at least to me, characters are what carry that gripping story–even if the plot is weak, I find, I don’t care, so long as the characters are strong.

    But its bloody hard work, don’t you think?

    • Reply

      I’m glad you got a copy. Was yours the one with Mikhail? (You don’t have to spill if you don’t want.) If so, she thought it set the scene really well. She could picture everything in her mind. Nice job! Maybe that’s why it was so easy for her to take it in the right direction.

      Creating “real” characters that readers will care about is definitely hard work!

      • Reply

        Yep, Mikhail was mine. I love strong Russian jerks….and he is a jerk, and writing him is a huge challange. He is funny and scary, and never takes no for an answer. I have a friend who helps a bit with the dialogue to help me have him say it just right.

        And thanks for the complement…LOL, the one thing that I liked, it made me think that perhaps I did have something there (oh, the writer’s anxiety!)

        But I want to plug for a second your Sunday Squirrel where you write the scenes that are so powerful…I am looking forward to each and everyone, I learn a lot from reading them–and I get a sense of how you write, which is so cool.

        Keep on! 🙂

  3. Martha W

    Reply

    You’ve hit the nail right on the head. Characters are so important. I’m reading through Larry Brooks’ The Three Dimensions of Character (thank you, btw!) and trying to get a grip around mine.

    But MV is right… it’s bloody hard work!!

    🙂

    • Reply

      Thanks for reminding me that I have Larry Brooks’ other book to read through. I’m looking forward to it. Good luck figuring out your own characters!

  4. Reply

    Thanks, M.V. (I have so many Ms today)! Glad you enjoy the Squirrels. They’re a good chance to force myself to practice.

    As soon as you said you’d submitted a paragraph to Linda, I *knew* Mikhail had to be yours. Mainly because it was dark. 😉

    Good luck with him! I hope to be able to read more someday.

    • Reply

      Yes, that is me dark, 😛
      And I hope to read more of your stuff as well, I hear very, very, good things and I am very interested.

      I am going to keep cheering you on!–
      Write on….:-D

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