Monday, January 7, 2013

Building Better Characters with Mr. Potato Head

Lisa Mangum gave a great, hands on, presentation at Book Academy using a childhood toy.

How do you build a better character?

What does your character see?
  • How does he perceive the world? With paranoia or rose-colored glasses?
  • What does he need to survive?
  • Look outside the character to how the setting affects him.
  • Is it an urban setting? Rural? Alone? 
  • Think how the boy who lived under the stairs saw Hogwarts. When a character moves to a different environment, he will naturally compare it to what he has seen before.
  • Look inside.
  • Use introspection. Does the character have to plan everything? 
  • Are they confidant in themselves?
  • What are their flaws? Exploit them!

What do they hear?

  • Do they only hear complaints? Compliments?
  • What does the character say when they talk to themselves when they are alone?
  • What do they think about? Process?
  • Do they believe they are good? Bad?

What do they say?

  • Pet phrases
  • Slang
  • Do they lie?
  • Prefer silence?
  • Dialogue reveals something about the character like education level, beliefs, prejudice.
  • Words can hurt AND heal. For some, words are weapons.
  • Voice is one of the best ways to showcase a character
What dreams or goals do they have?
  • What are they reaching for?
  • What is their hearts' desire?
  • Evaluate 'nice to haves' and 'have to haves'.
  • Dreams drive us! Withholding the fulfillment of dreams will force the character into action, into growth
  • Be specific about dreams!

Where is the character going?

  • What actions will they take? 
  • Motivation is a powerful tool for revealing character

Where does your character stand?

  • What does he believe in? Fight for? Die for?
  • Where is their boundary? Push them over that line over and over again

Characters with well-defined values--even if you don't agree with them--make compelling, interesting and memorable characters.
Characters with conviction are characters who move the plot.


Scott said...

Very good points.

Shaunda said...

Characters make the world go round, don't they?
Fellow writers and bloggers, I've given your blog the Liebster Blog Award. Thank you so much for connecting utah writers and readers! Hop on over to my blog for details.
Happy writing and reading!

Bruce Luck said...

Yeah for Mr.Potato-head. Those are good questions to ask.