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Category Archives: Characters

Headswerving: Storytelling from Multiple Points of View

By Vaughn Roycroft

Multiple faces with textHeadswerver Extraordinaire: What, you’ve never heard the term? I’m guessing you haven’t since I made it up. It’s a riff on the Shakespearian bedswerver, or one who is not faithful to a single bedmate, prone to swerving capriciously from one bed to another; a playful name for one with a voracious sexual appetite and/or an adulterous inclination.

I made it up because I happen to be one. A headswerver, not a bedswerver.

So what’s a headswerver? It’s a fiction writer who is not faithful to a single character’s point of view, prone to swerving capriciously from the viewpoint of one character to another. To deserve the moniker, one should be prone to writing from many characters’ viewpoints. I’m not alone. George RR Martin is a well-known headswerver, as are Joe Abercrombie and Guy Gavriel Kay, to name a few. Robert Jordan and Marion Zimmer Bradley were also eminent headswervers.

My headswerving may not be as outrageous as someone like GRRM, but I’m right up there. Most writing educators advise moderation when it comes to multiple POVs, some saying keep it to two or three, perhaps four at the extreme. I have eight. And that’s just in book one.

All told, in all four of my manuscripts, I have written from the tight third-person perspectives of twenty-two characters. Hello, my name is Vaughn, and I’m a compulsive headswerver.

Scale and Dimension: I didn’t know any better when I started. I had no sense of restraint in my use of multiple POVs. I simply wrote what I like to read, and considered this approach the best way to tell my tale. I write historical fantasy, and the scope of my world is, if I do say so, rather epic. I was interested in seeing my world from a variety of angles. Utilizing the viewpoint of several (okay, in my case, many) characters helps me to give readers a grasp of the scale of the story. Seeing the issues and conflicts from various perspectives adds dimension to what could be as flat as a map when viewed from a lone standpoint.

I’ll give you an example in relation to setting. In book one I have four characters from three ethnicities, hailing from disparate backgrounds, all starting the story from one place—a walled port city on the northern shores of the Black Sea. For one character, the Greek provincial governor, the city is an opulent world, his ancestral home, rightfully back in the control of his family, a wealthy shipping dynasty. For another, the Roman garrison commander, it’s a stinking backwater post, an assignment he deems beneath his noble standing. There are also two Gothic characters who start the story there, and to them the city is a prison, as they are both slaves. The younger of the two, a slave most of his life, escapes with the aid of the other slaves, bidden to bring back an army of his kinfolk. The other, an aging warrior from a wide green land, stays behind, willingly remaining cloistered in a windowless stone room for an oath to a dead king.

A simple port city could’ve been a distant and detached spot on a map for most of my tale, as neither of my MCs have ever been there. I’m hoping that instead, the experience of these four distinctive secondary characters give the place shape and shading, bringing its history to life.

On the Other Hand: I’ve read my share of stories, particularly historical fantasy stories, where the antagonists are just a distant looming peril. While there’s nothing wrong with looming peril, I believe a story can be enhanced if we get to know the opposition. And I’m not just talking about a scene where the dark lord uses telepathy to strangle a messenger bearing ill tidings, simply to show us he is merciless and arbitrarily cruel. For me it’s all the better that Sauron is a duplicitous fallen demigod, corrupted by a desire to create order from chaos; that the Nazgûl were deceived kings of men, lured to accept corrupting rings by their promise of power; that Darth Vader went to the dark side in a vain attempt to rescue lost love from death’s grip. I want more than simple good versus evil. Give me many shades of gray (no, wait—oh, never mind). I like to know what’s driving my favorite antagonists.

And what better way to get to know a character than to be in their skin, to feel their feelings of betrayal, loss, or injustice? What drove them to the dark side? Is their side even dark to them? Headswerving to your baddies’ viewpoints delivers the answers. Goals can be clarified, motivations strengthened, and conflicts escalated when we are brought deeper into the psyche of the antagonists by seeing the story from their perspectives. For me there’s an added bonus: they’re just plain fun to write.

Options for Optimizing: Headswerving also allows you to optimize the tension and impact for any given scene. It’s not just what’s happening, but who’s experiencing it. For example, say a character slaps another across the face. Who’s going to best sense whether the incident will escalate and how? The slapper or the slappee? Maybe it’s a bystander. Who best knows the depth of shame involved, or the amount of regret for the impulse? Which is greater? Rather than offering the reader just a stinging hand or cheek, you allow them to experience the event from the head that feels the fullest impact and senses the gamut of the potential repercussions.

How about a first kiss? Who is most shocked, or elated, or scandalized? Okay, how about a death? Who’s going to be horrified? Who least expected it? Who will be devastated? You can explore one or all of them—see the incident and delve the ramifications in any variety of ways. But most importantly, you get to choose the perspective that best moves your story forward and will deliver the biggest impact on your readers.

My Rose Colored POV Glasses: By now I’m sure you’ve surmised that I’m unabashed and unrepentant about my headswerving. I may love seeing from the eyes of many, but I’m not completely blind to the pitfalls. I’ve made my share of mistakes with my profusion of POVs, and I may make even more changes to my manuscripts before I’m done. So before you jump on the headswerver bandwagon, take a note of caution from a longtime devotee. Be aware of these potential complicating issues:

* Make them distinctive!  Be sure each character has a unique voice and perspective. Does each character come across differently and offer the reader a fresh outlook? Use of quirks and vocal tics can be helpful, but don’t rely on tricks. Make sure each POV character has a singular personality and set of opinions. Don’t duplicate worldviews.

*Avoid head-hopping. Make sure it’s very clear to the reader whose skin they are in. It can feel disorienting or even creepy when they aren’t sure. Delineate the changes with a scene break or a chapter change, and quickly identify the new POV after the change—within a line or two.

*Don’t fall down the rabbit hole. Secondary character POVs can be a blast to write, and they often aid the pacing. The development of subplots can enhance your story’s themes and keep your novel’s middle from sagging. But beware of being sidetracked! Your readers want to follow your protagonists—after all, they’re the ones you put in the story’s driver’s seat. Get back to him/her/them… Often.

*Offer closure. Don’t allow yourself to leave dangling participants when you get to ‘The End.’ If you’re going to create them, give them an arc. Every POV character should have some clear reason for their departure or the end of their role in the story—for better or worse. (I know some of you brash young headswervers are going to kill a few off, aren’t you? It’s okay, I get it.)

Headswerving’s Head Recruiter: So tell me—are you already a headswerver, or do you enjoy reading them? If you haven’t yet, do you think you’ll ever try a story from multiple POVs? Or are you just annoyed by all this hopping around, wishing I’d join Headswervers Anonymous already?

Vaughn RoycroftMany thanks to Heather Reid for allowing me to fill in for her, and to all the H&C ladies for their hospitality! For those of you who don’t know me, feel free to drop by my other blogging home at vaughnroycroftblog.com anytime, and we can get better acquainted. 

Image credit: rolffimages / 123RF Stock Photo

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39 Comments

Posted by on February 20, 2013 in Characters, Point of View, Uncategorized

 

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Use Character Arc To Improve Your Story

Not all characters change for the better...Al Pacino in Scarface

Not all characters change for the better…
Al Pacino in Scarface

“A character arc is the status of the character as it unfolds throughout the story, the storyline, or series of episodes.”

~ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Character_arc

“In real life we each regard ourselves as the main character.”

~ On Writing, Stephen King

As part of our workshop series, I wanted to take a look at the concept of Character Arc, and how it can enable us to write characters that:

                                    * Make the story better

                                    * Are plausible

The Character Arc, explored in Chris Vogler’s book The Writer’s Journey, is a framework. Are there flaws? Yes, I believe so. Characters don’t always need to change to grow. Some grow in their resolve. They remain steadfast in their beliefs.

When I first committed to writing, the only book on craft I’d read was Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s an excellent book, and I referenced it a few times for today’s post. So, I dove into writing my first book. I had great fun, and only a vague vision of where my story would go. But I got stuck. When a girl from mudding and four-wheeler country says she’s stuck, she means mired in muck up to her elbows.

The second book on craft I read was Chris Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey. Here’s what using the framework did for me:

It enabled me to learn to ask the right questions of my characters, and move the story forward. I began to understand how to connect-the-dots. Using the Hero’s Journey, as Vogler suggests, as a guide to creating a realistic Character Arc, helped me create a cohesive beginning (Act 1), middle (Act 2), and end (Act 3). 

I still write the first, even second draft from an organic mindset. One of my great pleasures in writing is the feeling of awe and adventure as I listen to the whisper of my subconscious. I live a safe life with my remarkable husband and children; writing is my great road trip.

It’s awesome to hit the road and words in the spirit of spontaneity and telling the story as honestly as we can, but if we get lost, there’s nothing wrong with referencing a map.

 I encourage you to further research character arcs, the three- act story, archetypes,  as well as  steadfast characters. I’m using my notes taken from The Writer’s Journey. I’ve broken down the Arc into three acts. The words in parentheses reference the Hero’s Journey.

Act One:

1. Limited awareness of problem (Ordinary World)

2. Increased awareness (Call to Adventure)

3. Reluctance to change (Refusal)

4. Overcoming reluctance (Meeting with the Mentor) 

Act Two:

5. Overcoming reluctance (Crossing the Threshold)

6. Experimenting with first change (Tests, Allies, and Enemies)

7. Preparing for big change (Approach to Inmost Cave)

8. Attempting big change (Ordeal)

9. Consequences of the attempt (Reward)

Act Three:

10. Rededication to change (The Road Back)

11. Final attempt at big change (Resurrection)

12. Final mastery of problem (Return with Elixer)

Here are some examples of questions using this framework can help us ask:

* How does the character become aware of conflict/ problems?

* How will the character initially react to the conflict?

* Can the character turn to anyone for advice and honesty?

* What motivates the character to a.) change or b.) remain true to their belief system?

I would love to hear your thoughts on character arc, the Hero’s Journey, or the three-act story structure. How have they affected your writing and storyline, or have you found another system that works for your manuscript?

Thank you for participating.

 
 

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Stepping into POV

20130208-163533.jpgThanks for continuing to follow us through our February workshops. A special thanks to those of you who have been brave enough to share your work with us. We sincerely appreciate the opportunity offer up some of the things we’ve learned over the years, but also the chance to learn from you. If you haven’t yet, be sure to enter to win a 25 page critique from Month9Books editor, our very own Courtney Koshel.

“Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.”
— Roger Miller

Today I’d like to talk about point-of-view, something that has always been highly important to me and something that has evolved in my writing over the years. For those of you who have read my stories, you know I like to dig my heels deeply into my characters’ hearts, set up camp, and then invite you in for a hot cup of coffee. It’s the best seat in the house.

There are three common points-of-view used in fiction: 1st person, 3rd person limited, and 3rd person omniscient. Two things usually dictate which one you choose: your writing style or your story. For me, first person is a choice I’ll make 9 times out of 10 because that’s how I connect to my characters and that’s what shapes the tone of my story. It’s a stylistic thing.

For others, it may vary from story to story. For instance, fantasy is often written in 3rd person because of the vast amount of world building that needs to be done, while Young Adult is commonly 1st person to create the familiar emotional intensity of adolescence in the reader. I’ll let you Google the many articles out there about which one is right for you, but no matter your choice, there are some common tips that mean the difference between watching the story play out on a mental screen and stepping into the character’s shoes.

Eliminating Filter Words

Courtney already gave us a wonderful post on filter words and in it she says, “They distance the reader from the story. It’s one extra step the reader has to take in order to experience action with the character.” There’s no better way to say it so I’ll leave it at that and encourage you to check out her post again for a list of common filter words.

Sensory Details

Including the five senses is essential in each scene yet it often gets overlooked. I think we’re so used to experiencing the world through them, we take for granted that without them I wouldn’t be able to feel the warm blanket over my legs right now; I wouldn’t hear the space heater running beside the couch; I couldn’t see the screen in front of me to type this, or taste the remnants of the Granny Smith apple I ate a few minutes ago. I could have simply said I’m typing this on my iPad in my living room but don’t the use of my senses create a much clearer picture?

Character Thoughts and Feelings

In any given moment, a person has an emotional reaction or thought about what is happening around them, or what happened earlier in the day or week or month. They have feelings about what other people say or do, or what might happen in the future. It is a rare moment when we aren’t reacting to our surroundings. Bring your character to life by giving us a glimpse into his or her mind and heart with internal monologue, skillfully included using the POV of your choice. Make us feel it too.

There are many ways to put readers behind the eyes of your characters but these are just a few. They say you don’t know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, and a novel is a cross-country trek. Bring us along.

In the comments, I would love to see a few paragraphs of your work-in-progress where you might need a little help with implementing these techniques. The ladies and I here to support you and speaking from experience, nothing helps your grow in your craft more than trial and error with an encouraging group or writing friends. 🙂

Photo by Newtown grafitti

 

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How to Cure the Sagging Middle

Subplots. There. That was easy. Oh, you want to hear the whole explanation? Fair enough.

For those of you who read my personal blog, you know the obstacles I overcame to win National Novel Writing Month this year. For those of you who don’t, it was an insane combination of two kids under 3, out of town guests, and several emotional breakdowns. Yet, I would call this year’s NaNoWriMo the most successful yet and not just because I overcame those obstacles, but also because I regularly hit word counts I’ve never accomplished before while fighting through that “sagging middle.” How did I do it?

The Power of Subplots

The problem with most of my outlines (and all of my first drafts) is that I have only a few scenes planned when I start writing. I know the major plot points and the first act is always crystal clear. But after that, things get fuzzy and I have a hard time getting from Point B to Point C, which means I’m clueless as to how I’ll ever get to Point D. Usually I do it with a bunch of random scenes like dinners–lots of them–and my characters doing dishes (you can’t have one without the other, right?). But then I get to the end of that outline or draft and realize there are a lot of boring scenes I’m not interested in writing (or rewriting), which means there’s no way anyone is going to be interested in reading them.

It took me a while to figure out why I was flailing and then it hit me–I’m not digging deep enough. Not digging deep enough into the story, into the character’s lives, into their friend’s and family’s lives. I was only thinking of the main plot. But if you’re writing a full-length novel, your main character is about more that just that single conflict. Just like you, he or she is juggling relationships, family, friends, work, personal goals, and more.

Breaking It Down

I’ll use my novel as an example.

The main plot/conflict is between my main character and her failing relationship.
But my main character also has issues with the expectations her mom still has for her.
And her father, who she hasn’t had a conversation with in seventeen years.
And then there’s the damage her career is doing to her personal life, no matter how much she loves it, as she reaches a crossroads in her professional life.
And her closest friends are getting divorced.

And to think–when I first thought of this novel, I only had the main plot in mind.

So think of it this way: My novel has about 60 scenes. Since my main conflict is the most important, let’s say it fills half the scenes–30. These scenes include things like the issues my heroine and hero have that are keeping them apart, the one major issue that is the catalyst for their growth, the scenes my main character spends trying to come to terms with it, the scenes in which they take turns trying to fix it, and the scenes where they’re sure it’s over. My MC’s career is also important so we’ll say that’s 10 more scenes. Then, take the other 20 scenes and divide them by the 4 remaining conflicts and we have 5 scenes each.

Now we’ll do the math. And remember, this is just a rough idea just to illustrate my point, not a concrete outline.

Act 1
8 scenes for the main conflict
3 scenes for the secondary conflict
1-2 scenes for each remaining conflict

Act 2, Part 1
7 scenes for the main conflict
2 scenes for the secondary conflict
1-2 scenes for each remaining conflict

Act 2, Part 2
7 scenes for the main conflict
2 scenes for the secondary conflict
1-2 scenes for each remaining conflict

Act 3
8 scenes for the main conflict
3 scenes for the secondary conflict
1-2 scenes for each remaining conflict

Some subplots won’t require 5 scenes, while some will require more. Sometimes you’ll have two or more conflicts within a single scene. But try to come up with at least 5 situations to put your character in which will show the story arc for each subplot. For instance, the conflict my MC has with her father would go like this: them not speaking, revealing why, show the misunderstanding, exacerbate the misunderstanding, and then resolve the conflict. Once you have similar snapshots in mind, sprinkle them throughout your novel, weaving them with the other plots, and you’ll never be short on scenes to write.

A Well of Scene Ideas

It may not always be clear at the beginning of your novel which conflicts your character will battle (mine don’t usually make themselves known until after the first draft) but if you’re having hard time coming up with them, start by thinking of your own. If your life was a novel, what would your plots and subplots be? And then, go from there. Because your characters are just people too (for most of you).

What techniques have you used to get through Act II?

Photo by barockschloss

 
8 Comments

Posted by on January 14, 2013 in Characters, Craft, Editing, Plot, Revision, Writing

 

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My Favorite Hugs and Chocolate Posts

Sometimes, a hug is all what we need – Jesslee Cuizon

What a good year it’s been over here! I though that the best way for me to end off things would be to share a few of the post by the wonderful ladies I share this blog with. If any of the links go to places they shouldn’t, please let me know.

It’s been such a pleasure getting to know all of you this year. I’m giving all of you big virtual bear hugs. I can’t wait to see what next year will bring us.

It’s been an honor, ladies and gentlemen.

Jamie Raintree

My Romance With Writing

Who Cares About Writers?

Instruction Manual for a Full-Time Writer

Why Character Archetypes Aren’t Just About Commercialism

Why I Heart Scrivener for Outlining

How to NaNoWriMo During Thanksgiving

Tonia Marie Houston

Bring Your Shovel

St. Patrick and the Writer’s Trinity

Gift Ideas for the Writer in Your Life

33 And It Feels Divine

Give Your Characters Quirk

Synopsis Fundamentals

Heather L Reid

Learn to Love Writing Queries

Dream Big and Never Give Up: How I Landed a 2 Book Publishing Deal

The Third Perspective: Why I Love Third Person Narrative

The First Editorial Letter: Let the Revisions Begin… Again

Riding the Revision Coaster: Completing My 30 Day Deadline

Rebecca Fields

What If…

Luck of the Irish?

The Magic of Fairy Tales

A World of Ideas

Pardon Me, Social Media

Read A (Banned) Book

Courtney Koschel

Filtering Filter Words in Your Writing

Questions to ask When Hiring an Editor

I Suck Syndrome: Recognize it and Beat it

Giving and Getting the Most Out of Critiques

Common Comma Issues

Manuscript Formatting

Jani Grey

Support from the obvious places

Need a little motivation or inspiration? I have some of that for you

Personal Perspective: Why I write 1st person POV

Let me tell you why you’re a winner

The Small Things

Why the subject of your blog post is so very important

Guest Posts

Visualize Your Way to Success: Guest Post by Vaughn Roycroft

DIY Editing and Proofreading Part 1 with Karen S. Elliot

Editing, Proofreading, and a Contest with Karen S. Elliot

Pants on Fire: Guest Post by Laura Long

Guest Post by Brian Taylor: Take a Walk… On a Tightrope: One Writer’s Journey

I’ll see you next year. Have a happy and safe new year!

 

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Reading as a Writer

medium_302558059I read a book not too long ago. It wasn’t a good one. I don’t say that often, but I had to make myself finish this one. When I was done, I closed it and sat and thought about the what had made it almost unreadable. The plot was confusing. After the first chapter, I thought it was about a girl who was looking for her dream guy, but then the main character stated how happy she was being by herself. Her relatives thought she needed to meet someone. Okay, that could be fun, except we never met the family. The reader was told about a phone call.

I kept reading, thinking I missed something and the plot would be clear later on. I was wrong. The ideas were there, but it wasn’t pulled together. I tried to relate to the character, hoping that would keep me interested in the story. However, it’s hard to relate to a woman who’s drop dead, supermodel gorgeous and only wears designer clothes. The name dropping through the book got annoying. She was wealthy and drove a luxury SUV that one of her many admirers bought for her. She had several stunningly handsome boyfriends that she rotated between. Yes, the main character and I had a major disconnect.

The ending was anti-climactic. The main character finally succumbed to alleged familial pressure and went out on a date with the man her family had chosen. She fell madly in love and married him that weekend. There was no drama, other than when the main character had to tell her other boyfriends that she’d met someone else. There was no danger, no risk and by the time I got to the end, I wanted to throw the book across the room. So why am I telling you all this? Because the germ of a good idea was there. When I read the synopsis, I was picturing a My Big Fat Greek Wedding type story, but the author didn’t follow through. What could have been done differently?

Plot. I know plotting can be difficult. I don’t read a lot of romances and it’s usually a struggle to get through a story that doesn’t have a chase scene or unsolved murder in it, or, better yet, strange creatures wreaking havoc. Anyway. This story had none of those, but I was looking for something to read that didn’t require any thought and would just let me escape for a few hours. This story required more thought because I was constantly trying to fill in the blanks about what happened. The plot could have been as simple as: girl is looking for Mr. Right and after a series of humorous mishaps, finds him. Instead, it was: girl has perfect life and is perfectly content, but out of implied pressure, finds Mr. Perfect with no problem. Give your reader some drama. Life isn’t this easy. No, we don’t want all the gory details, but let us relate to what the character is going through.

Characters. The main character was so one dimensional it was hard to like her, much less, read an entire story about her. She had everything – unlimited money, successful business, the clothes, the shoes, the designer sunglasses, cars, apartments, vacation house, men begging for her attention, friends who adored her every move. It was unrealistic. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen, but if you want your reader to pull for your character, give her something to lose and something to work toward. Put obstacles in her way and let the reader see who she is by how she deals with these situations. Everyone has a weakness or two, characters should also. Dig deep into your character and find out who they are. All the stuff I described above was just the surface. I still don’t know who the character was and what drove her. Perhaps she wasn’t as happy with her life as she let on, but even though it was first person pov, there was nothing to indicate she wanted anything to change. Imagine going out to lunch with your character. What would you talk about? Would you want to be friends with them? What about them interests you? Show as many layers to your character as you possibly can.

Setting. The setting from this story ranged from an office, to a luxurious apartment, a glamorous party, a vacation home and then a honeymoon suite. I know that because that’s what I was told. I never got lost in the setting or pictured it in my head. Take your reader on a journey and make them feel like they’re watching from the same room or wherever they may be.

Writing sounds like the easiest job in the world. You sit down at your computer or pick up a pen and paper and write. Except it’s not that easy. All things you see and hear in your head have to come out and sometimes that’s harder than you can imagine. A reader can’t get inside your head, you have to show and tell us. Outline a clear plot and then write it. You don’t have to follow the outline exactly, but know where your story is going. Give your characters depth. Even if the reader isn’t supposed to like the character, show us why. If you find yourself with flat characters, reconsider their importance to the story. Take the reader somewhere they’ve never been before, even if it’s just a strange living room. Make them feel like they’re there.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sis/302558059/”>Sister72</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Books, Characters, Plot, Setting, Uncategorized

 

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Why Character Archetypes Aren’t Just About Commercialism

What a coincidence that Heather brought up the subject of personality types when it is something that has been at the forefront of my mind recently. It is something that has become a part of how I approach every situation in my life and has helped me better understand myself and those I interact with on a frequent basis. Today, I would like to talk about the personality types of your characters, but if you haven’t taken a personality test yourself, either the DISC that Heather mentioned or the Myers-Briggs test that I’m more familiar with, I highly recommend it. I guarantee that it will change how you view people.

I’ve said it time and again but I’ll say it once more: I am a student of human nature. I’m sure, as writers, that’s something we all share. By ten years of age, I had already given up my seat at the kid’s table at family events to get involved in the gossip and philosophizing at the adult table. I soaked it all in, which is probably what drove me to write in the first place. My novels are a place for me to understand and pass on my observations about human reactions, relationships, and the reasons behind the choices we make. I love it.

Personality Types

I was first introduced to personality types a couple of years ago when I attended a personal growth seminar and since then I can’t help but try to place everyone I meet.
Also, knowing my own personality type has given me insight into how I best work and I have been able to use that to my advantage to be as productive as possible in the short period of time I have each day to focus on my writing.

When I came home from the seminar, I wanted to delve deeper and searching led me to the Myers-Briggs test, which looks at four different aspects of the personality. Once each person’s four traits are correctly identified, it is shockingly accurate. Looking at my personality profile again last week, almost two years since I took it the first time, I still nod the entire way through. But it isn’t just me. Everyone I have shared personality typing with has found their profile to be a very accurate description of them as well.

The Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator is broken down into sixteen personality types that take into account your Attitude (introverted/extroverted), your Perceptions (sensing/intuition), how you Judge those perceptions (thinking/feeling), and then which of the two functions–Perceiving or Judging–you most often use when dealing with the outside world. This breaks the population up into 16 personality types that indicate how people interact with others, how they are in relationships, how they handle tasks, and what is important to them.

Creating Real Life Characters

After researching personality types to the point that I could identify all of my closest family and friends, I decided to extend it to my writing and identify my characters. Being that I’m nearly done with the second draft of this novel, I’ve spent a lot of time with them and was able to identify my main characters easily. I also labeled my secondary characters–especially the ones who are highly influential to my main character’s journey. In the profile of each type, it lists that personality’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as all the things I listed above.

Why am I in love with this?

  1. Understanding how characters react with each other makes scenes so easy to write. For instance, my main character is thought based as opposed to feelings based so when her mom gets emotional with her, I know my main character is going to be rational when talking her down. In the same vein, my main character responds better to people who approach her with facts, rather than opinions.
  2. It creates consistency. Have you ever read a book where the characters are all over the place from one minute to the next to the point that it doesn’t feel like you’re following the same person anymore? Knowing your character’s type will help you create a believable hero’s journey that develops smoothly and steadily and yet, is still true to their ideals and values.
  3. It makes your characters easy to relate to. My main character is the same personality type as my mom. My main character’s mom is the same personality type as my best friend. Using this knowledge helps me create characters that are true to life, and chances are, your readers will know people with the same type as your characters too.

Archetypes and Publishing

One thing that I have heard frequently is that character archetypes (as well as story structures–but that is a different post) are just another way of conforming our work to the industry standards. As artists, we want to be unique and we want to express ourselves without being reined in by rules, the publishing industry, or what is popular. I hope you’ll allow me to play the devil’s advocate today because my thought is that if real people can be identified by sixteen categories, why not our characters too? I would certainly never suggest that each character shouldn’t have his or her own backgrounds, culture, class, personal preferences, quirks, and conflicts–that’s what makes us all different. But at the core, we are all human beings, and we all want health, love, and happiness. It’s those similarities that connect us to each other and to the characters in the novels we love.

But don’t take my word for it. Your challenge, if you should accept, is to try the test yourself. It takes about ten minutes and you can find the online quiz at humanmetrics.com. Then, look up your personality on personalitypage.com. You might just be surprised by what you discover…but then again, maybe not. 😉

Have you ever used personality types to create your characters? What is your personality type? Can you guess mine?

Photo by Crystl

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2012 in Characters, Craft, Publishing, Writing

 

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