September 23, 2020 Carol Brennan King

Creative Writing Notes

Talking about Character Building

  1. The protagonist, or the hero, is the person we want to win, the one our readers should want to win — the good guy or woman.
  2. The main character is the person that the story is actually about; it is his or her life we follow most closely in the story.
  3. The main character should be two things:
    • be the person who hurts the most
    • be someone with the power and freedom to act (though they may not know they have it)

Some tips on character building

Remember: Action isn’t as intriguing as intention

  •  By creating intention, you allow the reader a perspective that pulls them deeper into the story.
  • There must be yearning and desire
  • No matter who your character is, no matter where they come from, their gender, age or beliefs, every single character has to want or have a deep yearning for something.
  • That something must be clear.
  • Characters don’t need to be complete
  • We already know that the most intriguing characters are flawed in some way.
  • What may not be as apparent is that there are parts of these characters that should remain missing if you want to retain that intrigue.
  • Some people would say that leaving a character incomplete doesn’t make them fully round. But others argue that a character should be real or have some flaw rather than be round or complete.
  • You should never allow your characters to act illogically or the plot will suffer. In other words, if you want your character to be brave and take risks, then you must show them growing. You cannot suddenly have the person who always hid from confrontation to jump out front.
  • You’ll need to be able to answer as many questions about your character as you can when you build a character profile.

Know what a stereotype is and don’t write one. Draw out of your own experience and response to those experiences

Meanwhile, come on into my writing corner.

Memoir Class Notes Character Sept. 23, 2020

  1. What type of person is/was he or she?
  2. What face did he/she show to the world?
  3. Now think of an action no one could conceive of the person as being able to do, but he or she did it.
  4. How do you write the story so that when the person does this it makes sense on some level, even though it is difficult to accept that or is perhaps a joy to accept that.
  5. Interview yourself as a journalist would

Take the lead from authors like award-winning ghostwriter Sharon Barrett. That is, get under the skin of your subject: you.

You should treat yourself as an interview subject and ask yourself questions, the kind of questions you would ask another person that might trigger stories that may have slipped beneath the surface.

Remember, last week we talked about how you are a character in the book as the narrator, if not as a real character

6. Go the extra mile with your research

One of the realities that memoir writers inevitably face is that memory is mostly unreliable, according to Heather Ebert. “What you remember about past events may be empirically false, but they can still be emotionally true.”

That doesn’t mean all of your memories are wrong, but go into the writing questioning every memory and assumption you have.”

Here are a few research suggestions:

  • Investigate every story, fact, feeling, or vague inclination you have about your past insofar as it applies to your account.   Confirm or dispute them.
  • Look up anything that can be verified or fact-checked: World news, local weather, dates, places, events.
  • Revisit locations and settings from the past that you plan on writing about.
  • Interview your family members, friends, and others who were around in specific eras.
  • Get your hands on photos from that period in your life — they might be family snaps or ones from a local newspaper.
  • Draft a timeline of your life by year. Writing about a particular experience will pull up more memories as you open the floodgates.
  • Don’t invent or make things up — especially not anything that can be verified (see Frey, James: A Million Little Pieces).

Once you’ve collected the raw material, organize these memories in a way that makes sense for you. Some writers like to mind-map, others might compile them into a scrapbook or paste them into a journal. Some sort of structure in your research will pay serious dividends when you start writing your memoir.

Decide on your message or theme

Well, you have a lot of material here to think about. Once you have really thought through it all, get at the writing.

Fiction people: write two pages that reveal a character’s intention or desire.

Memoir people: write two pages using action to show us something about your character’s personality.

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