Sunday, August 2, 2015

Writing Memorable Characters: A Little Help

The focus for August at The Word Place is character development, so I thought I’d begin with a short book review. In March 2008, an editor at The Wild Rose Press recommended Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress. I recommended it then and recommend it now as 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)

Find at Amazon

Other books about character by the author:  Characters, Emotions, and Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints

Check out the author's Amazon page for more information. 

Disclaimer: This book review was unsolicited and unremunerated.  I pass on the information as part of the general writers' community.


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