Class Notes October 21, 2020 Carol Brennan King

Creative Writing

Steps to Character Development. Part 2

6. Emphasize his inner life as well as his surface problems

But just as important as the conflict or challenge,  is your character’s primary internal conflict. This will determine his inner dialogue. Growing internally will usually contribute more to your Character Arc than the surface story.

Ask yourself:

  • What keeps him awake at night?
  • What is his blind spot?
  • What are his secrets?
  • What embarrasses him?
  • What passion drives him?

Mix and match details from people you know – and yourself. Then when he faces a life or death situation, you will know how he will react. 

7. Draw upon your own experience in Character Development

The best way to develop a character is to, in essence, become that character.

  • Imagine yourself in every situation he finds himself, facing every dilemma, answering every question—how would you react if you were your character? Remember who you wrote this character to be.
  • If your character finds himself in mortal danger, imagine yourself in that predicament. 
  • Have you ever had to muster the courage to finally speak your mind and set somebody straight? What did that look and feel like?
  • There’s nothing like personal experience and imagination to help you develop characters.
  • 8.Show, don’t tell
  • Trust the reader to deduce character qualities by what they see in your scenes and hear in your dialogue. If you must tell about your character, you’ve failed.
  • Your reader has a mind, an imagination. Using it is part of the joy of reading.
  • As the life of your character unfolds, show who your character is through what he says, his body language, his thoughts, and what he does. Watch him behave in your mind’s eye, then write it.

9. Conduct thorough research

Spend time in a classroom, interview a teacher or pastor, arrange a ride-along with a cop or fireman, interview a CEO or a veteran. Don’t base your hero on images from movies and TV shows.

  • The last thing you want is a stereotype readers cannot identify with and whom some would see through instantly.
  • You’ll find that most people love talking about their lives and professions. Go to them for more help.

Memoir Class October 21, 2020

Going Deeper! Writing the people in our memoir

It is easy to write about the physical dimension of the people in our memoir. We know how tall they were and how wide they were. We know what color their skin and hair are.

We know if they spoke with accents or if they were musical. Those things are fairly easy to show as we write.

BUT there are other dimensions that we must think about that may require more time to choose how to show. We are now thinking of the dimension that we think of as within or insides or the depth of a person. Though these things may be more internal or foundational, they are as important or perhaps more important.

1.Heart: Think a person’s heart, not the one that beats or has attacks. The one that is involved in one’s affections or the object or magnitude of one’s affections.  What does the following sentence mean to you? She has a heart for dogs. Under what other circumstances might heart be important or show itself?  Or he has no heart.  Under what circumstances might someone say that about another person?

2. Soul: Think of a person’s soul, the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal. Or emotional or intellectual energy or intensity, especially as revealed in a work of art or an artistic performance. “Their interpretation lacked soul.” Oxford Dictionary : the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life. 2 a : the spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe. b capitalized, Christian Science : god sense 1b.

Consider this aspect of yourself or someone in your memoir. Would your character or relative be considered spiritual and what would that look like?

Would they talk about it or would they live it in some way?

How would you write about or show the spiritual aspect of a person?

How different are the two-identifying in some ways as spiritual OR behaving in some way others would identify as spiritual, in how a person is perceived?

3. Mind. What kind of a mind does this/any person in your memoir have?

 Is it inquiring? Is it what we call a good mind because he or she is a serious student of high learning?

Is it a creative mind and what would that look like?

Is it a peaceful or troubled mind?

Is this person handicapped in any way in relationship to his or her mind?

What possibilities exist here that could impact your work?  Think early onset dementia.  Think mental illness, PTSD, birth defect, traumatic brain injury. 

What inherited traits might show up here?

4. Feelings and Intentions. These are keys to understanding the place this person plays in your life.

How does his or her behavior toward you manifest any particular feelings or intentions? Does he or she behave toward all people that way or is it particular to some people?

For instance, does this person have any particular prejudices? How is that demonstrated and how did it affect you?

Think through the word: intentions. Pencil or pen in hand, what do you think this person’s intentions are/were – toward you, toward other family members, toward the community, toward the larger world?

Remember: The heart, soul, mind, feelings and intentions make up the true character of the person: who that person is and what they can be counted on to do.

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