Friday, January 14, 2011

How many characters do you need?

I've just finished rearranging my study - my office - my room where my computer is so I spend a lot of time there. It's also where I do my family history research and where I have tons of paperwork stored to do that research. And thousands of photographs, etc. You get the picture. Yesterday I moved my organ in with me. When my grandkids come, they love to play it because it makes myriad wonderful noises, besides being a piano and many of them take lessons and play rather well.

However, the noise level disturbs my husband and I can't always practice when I need to, so now it shares space with everything else in "my room."

I have cleaned out more than I can believe - how could I have saved so much "stuff" I didn't need? Well, that I don't need anymore. Would you believe I've tossed almost enough to fill a big recycle barrel? Feels SOOO good!

But I ran across a box of articles I'd written years ago, some of which are still appropriate for today, so I'm sharing one here as a reminder of some important elements of "story."

"Can you build a successful story with just a hero and heroine? Of course. But by using the following list of characters, your story will sparkle with added dimension.

1. FOIL - person who brings out the worst of your character. Someone who makes sparks fly. (Rhett and Scarlet)
2. CATALYST - often minor character who gets ball rolling (little boy in "Witness" who saw the murder)
3. OPPOSING VOICE - the characters who say: You can't do that! Are you crazy? You'll never amount to anything.
4. HUMOR - especially important if you have a heavy drama.
5. AUTHOR'S VOICE - have a minor character speak what you want readers to hear.
6. ANTAGONISTS - will be in the way of what the hero/heroine wants.
7. CONFIDANTE - person in whom hero/heroine confides (wise old man or woman of myth)

Some things to think about in a character:

What does this person want?
What prevents him/her from getting it?
What does he/she do about the obstacle?
What are the results of what he/she does?
What showdown does this all lead to?
Does he/she get what they want?
What change/growth came because of the endeavor?

Characters need a few warts - make them not perfect people, but likable and human. Using these strategies will create greater dimension and add richness to your story and characters."

An editor pointed out on one of my books that there was no character growth, and he was right. I had simply wrapped the story up neatly and tied up all the loose ends. So make sure your characters learn something from their experiences and "grow!"

1 comment:

Michele Ashman Bell said...

Great post! I learned much of this the hard way! Where were you 13 years ago?