Words of advice on Character

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Ok, so I think the last two posts on story cover Genre.
Genre is like the style of house your want your story to live in.

So what goes in the first room of your story?

In your story, there are more than just things happening. There are the people they are happening too. This is what readers, as other people, care about the most.


Not if the ring is found, but what happens when it’s found to the characters. The ring is just a leaver. In some cases, a true MacGuffin.

There’s a great deal more depth possible in exploring character. And the Blankest Blank of Blank isn’t the whole story at all. Just a place to start when building their identity. One geared to create very dramatic characters.

One good place to start is with the motivations of a character.

I’ve found a few sites that frame this in different ways; Suzannah Windsor has a nice selection of simple exercises you can use to explore and develop your character through motivations; Elizabeth Moon frames motivations under three groups – Physical, Social & Emotional!; Nancy Kress suggests thinking about them in terms of “Static” or “Changing”, “Personality” and “Motivation”.

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A lot of genre characters, and secondary cast tend to evolve less making them more “Static”, but that’s not mandatory or always good. And it’s important to think about this for the main character for sure.

The best, most lively characters learn something, and change in some small way at least. If nothing else Batman learns what Joker’s plan is in the end. But it’s even more profound when he learns something about himself, something new, or something hidden.

A classic framework for thinking about your Protagonist, is via a Character Arc which directly connects with the idea of a Story Arc. An example we’re all familiar with: yep, it’s a trope; even if you haven’t heard the name, you know the Hero’s Journey. A student, Gatomonya, sent me this link to some great alternate visualizations of that here.


KMWeilandI’ll add more links on this topic over time. For more insights, I’ve found a good sampling of some key aspects of writing characters, can be had in short bite size bits in this series of clips put out by K.M. Weiland!

She’s been at it a while and you should just put on one of her many many playlists on a given topic on continuous play any time you can. I’m doing that myself, a great refresher for my own future writing on the subject. For my students, I’ll suggest start with the embedded one here one on Beginnings!