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.

3 comments:

Scott said...

Very good points.

Shaunda said...

Characters make the world go round, don't they?
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Happy writing and reading!

Bruce Luck said...

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