Thursday, May 31, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 5

Go Beyond the Obvious
The obvious physical features we all use to immediately qualify a person when we meet him or her are eye and hair color, height and weight. You may think this is easy to decide, but you can use these obvious features to make your characters more memorable while also advancing your story line. In Sandra Balzo's Maggy Thorsen series, character Jake Pavlik has eyes that change color according to his mood. Once Maggy discovers this, she uses it to her advantage.

When creating the features of your characters, consider the less obvious qualities such as voice (think Fran Drescher) and bone structure (Hulk like). Does he/she have a striking feature? A nose that rivals the black diamond downhill at Aspen? Hands the size of cantaloupe? Of course, if you’re going to create such a feature, don't mention it once and forget about it. Allow it play a role--those cantaloupe hands are your antagonist's weapons.

Use appearance to accent personality.

Sanguine personalities tend to like the glittery and colorful, so maybe your protagonist always wears Hawaiian shirts or carries a glitzy purse the size of a great Dane. A melancholy more often will wear subdued colors like black and navy blue. Is your character quirky? Maybe she wears reflector vest orange lipstick. Is he phlegmatic? Have him wear clothes that always look like he slept in them. In fact, maybe that’s exactly what he does. You get the point. Use these things to create features your reader will remember. For example: Harry Potter and his round eyeglasses, Columbo and his rumpled overcoat, Snow White and her snow white complexion.

Utilize appearance to grow your character'sith,e allow it to play are part in moving your plot along its way.  personality.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 4

A Winning Personality

We've all met them: Miss Sunshine, Mr. Easy Going, Mrs. Bossy, and Ms. Perfectionist. We often chalk it up to "that's just who they are," but the above titles describe specific personality/temperament types. The Merriam-Webster Unabridged Collegiate Dictionary defines temperament as "characteristic or habitual inclination or mode of emotional response."

I use the following four personality types the most: sanguine (cheerful), melancholy (perfectionist), choleric (bossy), phlegmatic (easy going). Visit here for a detailed overview:
There are other ways experts classify personality/temperament.

Each temperament has its own strengths and weaknesses, mode of communication, and specific qualities that affect the way we think and act. Like many things in life, the boundaries blend. In other words, no one is purely just one temperament. Having even a rudimentary understanding of personalities opens the door to variety in your characters and adds potential points of conflict. The more you know, the more you can develop and manipulate your characters' thoughts and actions.

Give your characters personality.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 3

Part 3: Passions and Goals

What is your character passionate about? She must care about something to be interesting. Her passions also serve as connection points for your reader (see my post Passion, Pizzazz and Power). For example, is your protagonist passionate about:
·         unborn babies
·         the environment
·         nature
Her passion has a direct impact on her goals.

What are your character’s goals? Using the above passions your character may want to:
·         Open up a pregnancy resource center in town
·         Expose the local chemical factory’s illegal dumping of waste into the city’s river
·         Create a local wildlife refuge

Your character's passions and goals will directly and indirectly affect her beliefs, thoughts, actions, and reactions. The reader will recognize when your character acts/thinks in a way that contradicts her ruling passions/goals.

Of course, your antagonist has her own passions and goals. Pro and Ant may both may be passionate about unborn babies, but have different goals in serving that passion--e.g. your protagonist opens a PRC, but your antagonist bombs abortion clinics.

The choices are as wide open as your imagination.

Give your characters passions with goals that match.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 2

Character Profile
Earlier we discussed knowing your characters—how they look, feel, and think; their flaws; their goals and more. That’s a lot to remember about your major and supporting characters. If you can remember all that from day to day and week to week you have an amazing memory. But if you're like me, from one day to the next I can't remember whether it’s my protagonist or antagonist that has curly long brown hair and green eyes. 

In order to keep track of these details I use a tool from The Writer's Little Helper by James V. Smith, Jr. I expanded on what Smith had to offer and call it a character profile. Smith keeps his on a 5x8 index card. I keep mine on the computer, though sometimes print it out for quick reference. If you are planning a series, this profile page is particularly useful. After all, your fans will notice when your protagonist visits her mother in book two, when in book one you briefly mentioned she was an orphan. This profile will also keep you on track if your character begins to take over and lead you down the wrong path.

I’m all about making life simple. If you’d like to use my character profile rather than create one of your own, email me at deb [at] debralbutterfield [dot] com.

Keep track of your characters.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Monday, May 14, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 1

Passion, Pizzazz and Power

Whether consciously or unconsciously, when we read a book we want to connect with the story characters. We want to find something about them we share--their life goals, ethnicity, age, life experience, etc. These shared aspects (connection) draw us into the story and help us care about what happens to the characters.

Humans are three dimensional beings—body, soul, and spirit. But we often fail to show all three dimensions in our story. Let’s start by analyzing the protagonist and antagonist from your present work in progress (WIP). What do you know about your characters? Do you know how do they look (body), think (soul), and feel (spirit)? Do you know their personality type, their goals, their motivations? What are their flaws or vulnerabilities? Why do they get angry, sad, or excited? About what are they passionate and why? What in their life history has made them the way they are today? Why are they in conflict and how do all these characteristics play into that conflict? These character features and more influence how they act and react as you throw obstacles at them on their way to obtaining their goals. 
Give your story characters the passion, pizzazz and power they need to capture your reader.

Create memorable characters by giving them depth and dimension.

Recommended reading: Unleash the Writer Within by Cecil Murphey and The Writer’s Little Helper by James v. Smith, Jr.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Thursday, May 10, 2012

New Series Begins Next Week

Starting next week, I'll begin a series on creating memorable characters. I hope you'll join us. In the meantime, be sure to take advantage of this month's special offer, valued at $50, to get a free copyedit of an article of up to 2000 words.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Know What You Want Series—Part 11

Do You Have What It Takes?

Editing is a process all writers utilize in their own writing. We call it revision (or rewriting). When we critique others’ writing, we are employing the tasks of editing to help others improve.

Perhaps you’re wondering if you have the skills to freelance edit. The answer may come readily if your weakness lies in grammar, punctuation, or spelling. Don’t let this stop you—your strength may lie in content editing. My suggestion to you would be to evaluate your skills and your aptitude (do you enjoy working with the details?). You may want to peruse The Copyeditor’s Handbook, The Chicago Manual of Style, and The Associated Press Stylebook at your local library (there’s an exception to every rule!). Know your strengths and weaknesses to find your niche in freelance editing.

I hope you have found this series helpful both in knowing what to look for and how to communicate your needs to a freelance editor, but also in editing your own work.

To conclude this series, I’m offering a special good now till May 31, 2012: a free copyedit of one article up to 2000 words. Contact me via email at Deb [at] DebraLButterfield [dot] com.

Until next time…

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012