Editing Tip Tuesday

Professorhinkle frosty the snowman

How’s the writing going? Slow, words are flowing, staring at a blank screen, characters with minds of their own, too many words, not enough words, need more conflict. All appropriate answers.

I’m a believer that all stories are character driven. Sometimes you’ll hear stories are plot driven. Maybe, but I don’t think so. Characters under pressure drive the story. You can have the best idea in the world, but if you don’t have your characters making choices under pressure it doesn’t matter how good your story idea is because nothing is happening.

It’s important to know who your characters are before you even begin writing. I write character sketches of all of my main characters, not just the protagonist or antagonist or in a romance not just hero/heroine. When you know you’re characters well you’ll know what kind of choices they’ll make.

There’s also a difference between characterization and character. Characterization are all things we know about our character. Character is revealed in the choices they make under pressure.

Here’s an example of questions I ask and tell other writers to ask about their characters:

Gender, Age, Hair/Eye Color, Birthmarks, Height, Body Type, Family Life, Education, Jobs, Where did they grow up, Style of Speech, Attitudes and Opinions, Religion, What do they like to eat, Hobbies, Sports,

First date, First crush, first kiss, did they go to the prom, college, travel

Are they weak or strong emotionally, honest or a liar, cruel or kind, generous or selfish

You can keep going from there. The more you know the easier it will be to drive the story.

Any questions? I’d love to hear from you.

WinerywtableAre you having trouble keeping the distractions from creeping into your writing time? I’m hosting a distraction free writing retreat on September 10, 2016 in Ringoes, NJ at Old York Cellars Vineyard. It’s a day dedicated to keep you moving forward on your manuscript. Designated writing areas with no Wi-Fi, no cell phone zones. We also have optional activities to participate in: writing sprints, group walks, critiques, neck and shoulder massage, discussion groups for brainstorming, plotting, craft, etc. Sample wine in the tasting room.

For more information and to can sign up go to our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/writenowwritersretreat





2 thoughts on “Editing Tip Tuesday

  1. During the development phase of any story — researching and outlining — I break all of my prominent characters down to their five key traits, which govern all their actions and dialogue, a practice I find far more efficient and essential than composing some lengthy biographical sketch. The trick is to come up with a grouping that A) isn’t cliché and B) allows for our protagonists and antagonists to make unexpected (yet consistently characteristic) choices. When I reverse-engineered 24‘s Jack Bauer, I discovered what a deceptively complex hero he is, because he is both Boy Scout (he’s patriotic) and antihero (he’s defiant): He’s Superman and Batman, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Those are the kinds of unusual, incongruous attributes I try to discover as I map my characters; they in turn, reward me by responding to the events of the plot in ways that, ideally, make the story interesting and meaningful.

    1. Your technique is very interesting. What are the five key traits? How do these traits govern all their actions and dialogue? What I like about the biographical sketch is it’s a great starting point. A writer needs to know if their character’s mother is or was bipolar, for instance. That character will behave very differently from a character whose mother was say, a prostitute. Those characters will not make same the choices or most likely not even speak the same way.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I love to hear from other writers!

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