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Creating Vibrant Characters

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 16, 2013

This past weekend, guest speaker Joanna Campbell Slan told us how to create vibrant characters. First she mentioned four personality styles. Dialogue should reflect if the person is a tell versus an ask kind of guy. This sounds like me and my husband. He is ALWAYS asking questions. He’ll say, “Why is that man cutting his grass so early?” I’ll say, “I wonder why he’s cutting his grass so early.” See the difference?   Joanna Slan

Which comes first, character or plot? Start by developing your characters. Give them conflicts, differing viewpoints and reactions. Problems between them will create tension. Remember that if any strength is overused, it becomes a weakness. An example is the character who will get the job done, but at any cost. Or it can be the person who follows rules no matter what happens.

Give each person a habit and a telling detail that helps identify him. Also, pair a physical description with an emotional one for each character.

Have your characters work toward a goal. The four personality types will react differently. One group may ask numerous questions and want to know the rules. Another group may spend time getting organized and elect someone to take notes. Group three might just play around and have fun. And group four will be the ones who take charge and accomplish the task.

Joanna offered a lot more tips in this valuable workshop. This only touches the tip of the iceberg on what she covered. But keeping just these few bits of advice in mind is helpful.

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2 Responses to “Creating Vibrant Characters”

  1. Thanks for sharing… characters are everything, and helping your readers know who’s who is critical. Stephen Coonts spoke about some rules of characterization at a program I attended, using Mark Twain’s rules for writing. Consistency is important–he said we (and our readers) should know how a character is likely to respond in any given situation.

    Terry
    Terry’s Place

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