Well, as you already know from last week, I attended the Blue Ridge Mountains Writers Conference in Black Mountain, NC.
It was a wonderful experience in so many ways – but particularly the teaching. Since I was only there for two full days, my class list wasn’t very long, but the information was timeless. Over the next few posts I want to share with you some nuggets of inspiration I received while there.
Today, it’s a glimpse as Susan May Warren’s Becoming Your Own Book Therapist course.
Now, I’m a speech-language pathologist by-day, so I get the whole “therapy” idea. It’s what I do.
1. See a problem
2. Dissect the root of the problem
3. Take steps to fix the problem through a series of questions/activities
4. Celebrate your brilliance (I added that part, of course ;-)
So when I was introduced to a few of Susie’s techniques, it was a “light bulb” moment. Aha! There’s the problem. Let’s fix it!
Today we’re going to focus on Character Development.
If a judge/editor/agents says:
All of your characters sounds the same
What’s the problem? – Your characters are not developed enough. Not deep enough. He/she needs layers – like a coat. Each layer removed provides something ‘closer to the skin’ of your character. (okay, those last few statements were from Pepper, not Susie J
How do you deepen the character development?
Ask your character questions. Have an interview. Sound weird?
I’ll use one of my characters from the story I’m going to write next (so it’s BRAND NEW TO ME too) to show you how it can work.
I’m using questions from Susan May Warren’s FABULOUS book, The Book Buddy, and notes from her class.
1. Who are you - the bio
Ava Paige Emerson
27 years old
High School History Teacher
2. Tell me about the darkest moment of your past, something that shaped you.
My big brother dying in Afghanistan five years ago. I caused me to hold on to my parents – but then, a year ago they died in an automobile accident while they were away in England trying to salvage their marriage. One of them cheated on the other – I’m pretty sure it was my father. He travels for business and men are usually known for their faithfulness, right? If someone’s going to cheat, it’s most likely going to be them.
3. What kind of person are you today because of that moment?
Hmm, well I guess I’m independent, and more cautious about possible romance. Okay, to be completely honest, I don’t date. I haven’t since they died. I can’t bring myself to try and trust somebody who is probably going to leave me in some form or other anyway.
4. What Lie do you believe that drives you and shapes your spiritual beliefs? (okay, if this one isn’t obvious from Ava’s answers so far….)
Nothing is constant – especially a man, so I can’t trust one. I have to stay independent and rely on my own strength to be happy. A guy is just going to betray me and being numb is a lot easier to bear than hurting through loss.
5. What is your greatest fear?
That I’m right, I guess. That being alone is the only option for me.
The point is…you keep asking until you get to the heart of your character. You search for her greatest fear, the lie she believes, her deepest wound, and her greatest dream. Those are the heartbeat elements strumming through the pages of your novel pumping life into your one-dimensional character. It's my first time using these questions for my new book - but it's helped me to start fleshing out my heroine, and I love the twists it begins to develop in my novel.
If you want to learn more, purchase Susie’s tool, The Book Buddy – a GREAT buy.
You can also check out my very first VLOG where I mention The Book Buddy and tell a little more about it.Do you have any tools you use to help deepen your characterization? Any books you'd recommend?
What is your current heroine's greatest dream?