Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Book Review: Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress

I just finished reading Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress, a book recommended by an editor at TWRP. It was a worthwhile read.

The author divides the book into three parts:
I. Creating Strong and Believable Characters: The Externals where she dealt with descriptive details, character names, setting, employment, dialogue, numbers of characters, and the legal ramifications of basing characters on real people.

II. Creating Strong and Believable Characters: The Internals where she discusses characterizing through personal thoughts, how to show exactly when and what your character is thinking, the necessity of being clear and not depending on the reader to make assumptions, creating villains, and making the protagonist less than sympathetic without alienating the readers.

III. Character and Plot in which she suggests some new and innovative ways of relating character to plot and theme.

What I found most helpful was her use of concrete examples from actual works of fiction. I need to "see" what someone is explaining rather than just "hearing" it. She illustrated her points with characters from literary classics of years gone by as well as newer books.

A big plus is the "Intelligence Dossier" in Chapter 15, which provides a wonderfully-structured outline for creating and getting to know a characters. She makes suggestions for using it and says, "Or you may decide to photocopy some, all, or none of the sections as they seem to apply to your particular characters in your particular book, and fill them out." It's an excellent tool!

Each chapter ends with a concise summary of its main points, another useful tool for readers like me who need to be reminded of everything I just read--no matter how carefully I read it!

I give this book a two thumbs' up!

Dynamic Characters: How to Create Personalities That Keep Readers Captivated by Nancy Kress. Writer's Digest Books, 1998. ($16.99)


nlindabrit said...

I like the fact that Nancy Kress acknowledges that you may want to use all or just part of a suggestion, which shows a lack of ego and a recognition that everyone has their own unique way of approaching things.

K9friend said...

The Kress book sounds like a good one. I'll definitely check it out!