As you can probably tell, I’m a book hopper. I can’t seem to stick with one non-fiction book from beginning to end, but skip from one to the next…and so on. So, instead of a book of the day or week, I have a “Book of the Moment”.
This book arrived yesterday and I’m already impressed. One of the many nice features is that it uses movies as teaching points…four movies to be exact. Going through each of the movies, it breaks down the various components of developing a good story.
It starts with character, which is where most writing books begin because ALL stories are made up of characters. Creating characters is not just about making inanimate objects breathe, it’s about making them live. As authors we want to develop characters who revisit readers minds long after they’ve closed the book and moved onto another one.
For some annoyingly talented authors, these sort of characters seem to flow easily from their fingertips – leaving the rest of us shuffling through our spreadsheets, character charts, and how-two books trying to discover the secret.
What are some things we can do as writers to take our black and white print and transform it into a myriad of three dimensional colors that evolves into a magnificent character? I don’t have all the answers, but here are a few things I’ve learned from Break Into Fiction by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love:
1. What are the other characters saying about your main character? – sometimes the best way to ‘get to know’ your protagonist is through the eyes of someone else. How does a secondary character see your protagonist? how does the antagonist see him/her?
2. Walk two miles in your characters shoes – Get inside his/her head and learn their thought patterns and emotional responses. How would your protagonist be different than you? How is she different than your antagonist? If they both respond to anger, sadness, love, passion the same way, then they are not two different characters. I’ve had to learn this the hard way. If I have a difficult time deciding who is saying what in a dialogue, then I’ve not made my voices (and perhaps personalities) distinct enough.
3. EVERY character has flaws. Hey, even Superman had kriptonite, plus some character traits can be both good and bad. An obsessive personality can be very well organized, thoughtful, dependable…etc, but push that same personality to another extreme and you can see someone who is rigid, critical, and demanding.
4. Backstory – the story you don’t necessarily tell- Every character you write should have a backstory…the what happened before you started your novel. Family history, past, schooling, former relationships, etc. All of the things that make your character who he is…just as your past influences you. In your novel, the backstory may play a significant role in your novel. In my WIP, my backstory is one of the main reasons why my protagonist is having so much trouble. Does the total backstory ever come out in the novel? Probably not, but bits and pieces do. THere are things about my protagonist’s past readers will never know, but it influences her as a character and therefore it is important.
Here are just a few tips to get you thinking colorful character thoughts. I think I’m going to stick with this book for a while…short chapters for a busy mom = possible hook 😉