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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Tips on Creating Characters

I just read an article from Darcy Pattison on creating memorable characters. See it here: http://www.darcypattison.com/revision/why-people-forget-your-character/?utm_source=Fiction+Notes&utm_campaign=71f48904bb-RSS_EMAIL_WEEKLY_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6e22eab634-71f48904bb-394131281&mc_cid=71f48904bb&mc_eid=3bc089de7a.

Five main points were set forth:
  1. Darcy reminds us to mention our main characters (who don't have active parts in our current scenes) every forty pages or so (which Dave Farland also speaks of too), even if you only have one character note the absence of another.
  2. Use name generators to come up with the right name for your character. [Here I must add in not to name any of your characters with the same first letter. So don't have Mark, Mary, May, Matt and Mike all in the same story. It's too confusing for your readers. I'd even go so far as to suggest that you never have a character name that repeats the first letter of another character name within the same book. I know I'm guilty of skimming character names while reading, reducing them to that very first letter, so Clark becomes C, Dale becomes D, Amy becomes A. So don't give your reader a chance to get confused by naming two characters with the same first letter to their name. Just saying ... Also you will find plenty of name generators online, so you don't need to limit yourself to Scrivener's option. Plus you could search baby name books and gather your own "best of the best" list to choose from. Be sure to mark out each name you've used in a previous book. That way you can create a memorable Abigail in a book or series that remains the one source (your own monopoly) where your readers can find this particular character.]
  3. ID your character via a tag from the sense of sight, touch, hearing or smell. [I'd go further to include emotions (angry, depressed, manic) and even something related to their professions (artsy, aware, competitive).]
  4. Show, THEN tell. [LOVE THIS ONE. I always hate it when some author tries to tell me a basic writing strategy that doesn't work 100 percent of the time, like the infamous "show, don't tell." In general, yes. But there are plenty of times when a simple "telling" transition (Three weeks later ...) or a short emotional line (Jesus wept) is all that is needed. As authors, we are told to leave out the boring parts (always good advice). That is precisely what "telling" can do. So FINALLY someone has noted the importance of "telling" when needed. In fact, this new and improved adaptation even tells us creative types WHEN to apply the "telling" portion. Just plain genius.]
  5. Deepen the plot. Darcy's article reminds us that the more we authors relate the character to the plot, the more memorable the character becomes. "More at stake emotionally" as Darcy states.
Good advice. Good reminders of some things we knew. Good insights into others.

Like there are plotters and pantsters, I also believe we authors fall into two distinct camps as to plot versus character. I'm of the mind-set that the main character rules. Not that you should go the episodic route instead of utilizing a plot with its key plot points for the well-known genres, but that plot is the stage for your main character(s) to shine. To me the character arc is the learning lesson for the reader, with the story arc pinpointing the character's growth, even how we readers can duplicate his/her successful attack of a similar problem.

Had to share this with y'all because Darcy Pattison's words invigorated me as I'm writing Book 1 of my first-ever series. Hope you enjoy her article too.

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)

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