Hot WritingTips from the Philly Writer’s Conf: On Character

Back from the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference June 3-5. Lots of good stuff to report on! I will post hot tips and techniques over the next week on what I learned during this past weekend from a round of excellent presenters.

On Character – presented by Gregory Frost, Author of ShadowBridge and many more works.“You paid for this pain” – quote on his critiquing our work.
Darn right.

All good fiction is 3D
Desire + Danger = Drama
The danger part is the impediment – add it. Get your MC out of their comfort zone.

Dramatize it, don’t tell it
Show drama through dialogue and action. Have the characters reveal things as they go along, don’t just tell us.
Exercise: Imagine scene. A married couple is fighting. One wants to divorce, one doesn’t. At the end of dialogue one has convinced the other of their argument. Write 1 page of dialogue only for this scene. Now write 1 page of exposition only of this scene. Find a way to combine them.

Identify the gap in characters
Make characters rich in symbolic self. People act on the basis of how they see themselves and who they think they are. Ie. Priest lives one life, then is a pedophile behind public life. Ie. A politician rails against homosexuals, he is one himself. Find the gap between character’s actions and how he sees himself. Symbolic self is very powerful and drives character to do what they do.

Cool character names
Names evoke a visual. Names matter. They can be found walking through cemeteries. Names of long ago can be unique and not mainstream now.

Character Chart
Create a character chart that list in detail their physiological, sociological and psychological traits. In doing this your character will come alive to you and can be referred back to as you write. They may reveal new things about themselves.

Characters have a life before your book
This is true for your multiplex characters not simplex characters (nameless/faceless characters such as delivery person, etc). Get to know them by interviewing your multiplex character asking 20 questions or free write about who they are.

Create a triangle of characters
Triangle keeps characters from agreeing with one another and adds conflict. Don’t forget siblings – they make great secondary characters.

Check filtering words
When revising, eliminate words like ‘realized’, ‘noticed’, etc. Keep reader in the story through eyes of the character. Ie. Change “Ben noticed the fire burned fierce in the wind” to “The fire burned fierce.”

Get to action from the start
Don’t start your novel with the character sitting around alone in exposition. Need action! If he is sitting around, then skip and start at Chapter 2 or 3 –  wherever the action finally starts. Get right to it. Ie. Read Accidental Tourist intro scene.

No backstory in the beginning
Don’t add in all the backstory in the first scene. Wind it in later. Don’t inform the reader of all that is going on, the characters know. And they don’t need to tell each other what they already know. Character development is delivered as you go along through the book. Tip: Find a way to start at near the end of your story and then go back.

Check out: Lajos Egri’s book The Art of Dramatic Writing.

Watch for more hot tips and advice over the next week! Now to working on my MS from this workshop. I like pain. Pain is good.

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7 Comments

Filed under Characters, Writing Conferences, Writing Resources

7 responses to “Hot WritingTips from the Philly Writer’s Conf: On Character

  1. Awesome post, thanks for sharing your notes!

  2. Haha–“you paid for this pain.” How true that is! Writers must be masochists! Looking forward to your tip-filled posts!

  3. Hi Donna
    Yes, all good stuff from Frost for sure.
    I was the YA & Kids’ fiction teacher–just posted over at my blog on the conf. too! Catherine
    http://catherinestine.blogspot.com/2011/06/highlights-from-writers-conference.html

  4. Pingback: Top Picks Thursday « The Author Chronicles

  5. Pingback: Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2011 » Two-Penny Words

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