Creative Writing/Memoir Class Notes October 7, 2020 by Carol Brennan King

Is There a Squirrel in Your Office? | Aha!

The squirrels in the park where we go pick up and attend to one peanut at a time. The chipmunks fill their little mouths with a dozen peanuts and seem to go back to their nest and spill the lot out. We know they are not sorting them and putting them on a teeny shelf down there because within seconds, they are back for more. How about you? Do you study the facts that you find in your research, to make sure it is true and will enhance your story. Or do you just throw a bunch of stuff in there, hoping some will be what you are looking for? To be honest, I had to think of some good way to use these cute photos, in a time when we need a cute photo.

Now to the real work:

5 Character Types That Appear in Fiction

  1. Dynamic characters, who change and grow over the period of the story.

2. Round characters, a major character shows from the introduction that they can grow and change. Note that some protagonists don’t change until their circumstances force them to. We know more about these characters.

 Their roundness does not determine the quality of their character: good or bad guys can be written well and developed fully.

3. Static characters or flat characters. These are people who do not change significantly over the course of the work but are often necessary to show the changes that will happen to other characters. They do serve a purpose. Note, villains tend to be flat or static characters. Once a bad guy in the piece, almost always, still a bad guy. So think about some characteristics of a bad guy or woman.

4.Stock character, or one with a particular set of personality traits or a typical example of a person or thing. Think the mother, the father, child, wise old person, deceiver or hero. They live up to their reputation or what you expect.  Consider what we expect of the mother, father, wise old person, or deceiver (unfaithful lover or friend) knowing also there are always those who miss the mark.

5.Symbolic character. Most are supporting characters who are written to influence the audience’s mind about points the writer is trying to make.

When you think of this character or see him or her come up in the text, you are meant to think about a particular thing. For instance, in the past, every little town had a Methodist Church, and when you met the character of the pastor, you are meant to think about the guardian of secrets perhaps or the minister who blends into the background, but may be an influencer.

Character Types by Role

  1. The protagonist is the main character, the center of attention, the one the story is about. Most of the action centers around this person and we are expected to care about this person the most.

In stories told in the first person, the protagonist is generally the narrator, though not always. Remember, every story must have a protagonist. Without the protagonist, you have not conflict, and therefore, no plot or story.

2.Antagonist or the character who opposes the protagonist, who gets in the way of and undermines or opposes that person. Their presence and behavior can present the tension that keeps the story moving and offers the protagonist a reason to grow or change.

3.Deuteragonist: think a secondary character or characters who are close to the protagonist. Their relationship brings warmth, a sense of camaraderie to the work, friends or colleagues to help the protagonist strategize. Note, not all deuteragonists are friends. Some ultimately are enemies. Think the cast of Friends or Seinfeld or Cheers.

4. Tertiary characters: those who help things get along or happen in the story, but who are more like furniture or service people, there to facilitate the story but stay in the background. Think the librarian, the clerk, the waiter, the hotel hostess or mailman.

5.Love interest, very often a deuteragonist, but necessary to help us to relate to the protagonist as real, struggling with the same things the rest of the human world face. Not required but useful if you do not have the next character – the confidant.

6.Confidant, generally a best friend or even a mentor, though possibly the love interest or partner. It could be someone the protagonist is forced to turn to because their first choice is unavailable. Consider what this could do with the plot.

7.Foil character, the one whose personality and values clash with the protagonists.  Like the tertiary characters, they are there to play a role, to show off the protagonist or help that person grow or show a different side.

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MEMOIR:

  • It focuses and reflects on the relationship between the writer and a particular person, place, animal, or object.
  • It explains the significance of the relationship and is limited to a particular phase, time period, place, or recurring behavior in order to develop the focus fully.

How to Write a Memoir Like Fiction

1. Plot Your Memoir.  Even though it is a real story, you need to plot it out. This helps you avoid repeating scenes that are similar. The easiest way to do this is showing us how you got into trouble or faced a challenge and then how you got through it.

2. Re-Create Yourself As A Character  Try to show how you have grown as a person. Create a clear arc for yourself. Fill in a character questionnaire. Remember, readers need to empathize with you – even if you have done terrible things.   https://www.writerswrite.co.za/9-character-questionnaires-for-writers/

3. Insert Dialogue  Even if you can’t remember exactly what you said, you know how you speak. You know how other people around you speak. Use dialogue to show your interactions with these people. If they are still alive, visit them or others who speak as they did and listen to their speech patterns and lexicon.

4. Remember Body Language  Have a good look at yourself and the people around you. Take note of their body language and include it in your memoir. Remember that real people do things while they’re talking or thinking.

5.Include Settings That Matter  Setting is defined as the physical location and time of a story. It acts as a story’s backbone. Remember that you are not writing an autobiography. Choose to describe and include only the settings that are relevant to your theme.

6.Use The Senses  This is perhaps more important in a memoir than it is in a work of fiction. Your descriptions will come alive when you use your senses to show and not tell.

7.Stick To Your Theme  If you know what the theme of your memoir is, you will be able to stick to the important parts that you should include in your story. If you don’t, you will add a lot of unnecessary scenes. 

Consider what some options might be for themes: show how you escaped or overcame something, show the influence a person or person was on you, or how an event changes you as you were forced to face it…

8. Answer The Question Every good story asks a question and every good writer answers it. For example you ask: How did he become a drug addict and how did he beat his addiction? Or ‘Why did she end up in prison and how did she get out?’ Readers want a reward for reading the story. Make sure you give it to them.

9. Pace Your Story Give readers enough to get them interested and enough to get them to keep on turning the page.  Use suspense in your memoir.

10. Use The Correct Viewpoint  You are writing your story. You are confessing what happened to you. The best way to do this is in first-personpresent tense.

YOUR ASSIGNMENT: YOU MAY USE SOMETHING YOU ARE NOW WORKING ON, BUT I WANT TO SEE YOU CONSCIOUSLY USE ONE OF THE CHARACTER TYPES FROM THIS MATERIAL. BE ABLE TO TALK ABOUT HOW YOU USED THIS MATERIAL IN WRITING THAT CHARACTER.

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