bit of advice on character building that I would like to share with
you today.First off, creating a character bio has turned out to be a huge help
for me. I thought I knew my characters. I had been around them for
over a decade, I know them so well. And yet, when I started on their
bios, I actually learned even more about them!
It’s all very exciting.
So I wanted to share the three dimensions in creating your character
bio thanks to Mr. Frey:
Age, weight, shape, appearance, whatever. Even if it may not be
useful in the story, put it in there. Because society shapes a
person’s personality based on their appearance. Here are some
examples that he uses:
“Where would Jim Thorpe have been, for example, had he been born with
a club foot? or Marilyn Monroe, had she turned out flatchested? Or
Hank Aaron, had he had a withered arm? Or Barbra Streisand, a small
voice? Obviously, not only would their choices of profession have been
affected, but their personalities would have been shaped differently
as well. A small man cannot “throw his weight around” as a large man
can. Pretty or ugly, short or tall, thin or fat—all of these physical
traits affect the way a character would have developed, just as such
physical traits affect real people.”
up in. Where did they go to school? What were their parents like?
What were their parents views on politics, sex, or money? Did they
even have parents? If not, where did they grow up and what was the
overall atmosphere in that place? This also helps shape your
character in the same way that it helps shape a real human being.
two. As a result of their appearance and societal upbringing: what
makes them tick? What are their fears? Desires? Fantasies? Phobias?
IQ? Special Talents or Soundness of Reasoning?
journal in the voice of your character. This is said to be helpful in
creating a villain. This will help you find their voice and they even
reveal some odd skeletons from their closet that you didn’t think
surrounded by these characters for well over ten years. They are
still surprising me today.
So I am on the tail-end of going through my first session of Beta Readers. I have gotten a ton of great feedback and I have a lot of work ahead of me. Overall, I have positive feedback on my world-building and characters. My biggest problem is my prose and tightening the story.
What does that mean?
Well, I have no problem writing in first person. I do it all the time on my blogs. It is the voice I am most comfortable with in regaling my own story and, at times, sprinkling a bit of my own humor. However, for fantasy, tradition dictates that my novel should be written in third person limited omniscient (literally a character point of view – POV – that is not limited to the characters thoughts).
What does this have to do with my prose? Well, unfortunately, I tend to repeat a lot (a lot) of the same words. One of my beta readers took the time to highlight all the words I repeated. At least I was consistent with my repetition. But it was embarrassing, nonetheless. I need more variety in that writing. But not only did this Beta reader tell me what I needed to fix; she also gave me the tools to help!
This Beta reader’s name is Amy Butcher. I say this because she is in the process of wanting to start her own copyediting service. I found her through Goodreads and I must say that she is a gem. I will definitely continue to work with her as I take on my novel and there will be more testimonials and praise for her as I go. I just wanted to put her name out there because she is good at what she does and I definitely recommend her for anyone looking for a copy editor.
Anyway, back to my tools. Amy has recommended to me a number of books to help with my prose and working on my, so far, unstructured novel.
Here’s a brief list and what makes them useful:
- How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey
- How to Write a Damn Good Novel II by James N. Frey (both help with developing a character biography and pinning down the villain)
- How to Write a Damn Good Thriller by James N. Frey (though I may not be writing a thriller, it can help with finding a good method in plotting a book)
I know that’s a lot of Frey novels, but he’s been recommended for those who write genre fiction but haven’t taken a lot of classes (like myself).
- For prose: Vex, Hex, Smash and Smoosh by Constance Hale.
- After you have rewritten a draft: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King.
- Story by Robert McKee. This guy goes over different types of plots (mostly from a screenwriting prospective – but doesn’t mean it’s not useful). He has been recommended also for help in writing good dialogues and scenes
- Anatomy of a Story by John Truby. Also recommended to plotting and mapping out a clear structure to your story.
Phew! That’s quite a list! But you know what? If you want to write the best you can, you need to acknowledge that you should get all the tools you can possibly get. Simply reading and writing for over twenty years (I am 28, do the math) does not make one automatically a good writer. Maybe some have that gift but for the rest of us it’s just only a good start.
Off to work!