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Friday, August 23, 2013

Fiction Friday - Post 3 - Character Development 1


Fiction Friday - Post 3
Character Development 1

From: Haymaking. Trades & occupations. Plate 9. Lithograph by L. Prang & Co., 1874.
Reproduction number: LC-USZ62-676
http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/picamer/paFarm.html [retrieved 21 Aug 2013]

Recognize any of these farmers?

As I said, last time, I find that I start my fiction writing based on family history research with place. Next, for me, however, is Character - and I love Character Development. This is where I feel I most effectively use my family history research in writing fiction.

For my first novel, "Back to the Homeplace," I really appreciated the number of reviews that mentioned my character development in a positive light. Very satisfying.

One of the techniques of character development I'd like to discuss today is the concept of what I call 'composite characters.' A writer can only have a limited number of 'main' characters in any given story that are 'fully' developed. I found that using characteristics of several similar folks from my family history research combined into one 'composite' character worked very well.

A recommended tool I have adopted, or at least tried to, in character development is the Profile. Most writers use some variation of this tool which I'll describe in more detail in later posts. I am still working to make it more effective for me - so recognize I'm talking about a 'work in progress.' Have you used this tool? How does it work for you?

The Profile is a single sheet, or file, that tells everything 'you know' about each of your main characters. Properly prepared and used, the Profile has much more detail than ever appears, specifically, in your writing. This includes not only physical descriptions, but traits, nuances, 'likes and dislikes,' etc. The Profile should be a major assist to the writer to know how the character will respond to any given situation as well as how others are going to react to actions by the character. This process is never sufficiently complete, in my view. What do you think? Do you see this as a useful tool?

Finally, for today, think about some distinctive characteristics of family members, or friends or neighbors, that you would like to incorporate into a main character you would like to use in a story you want to tell. Write down a list of these characteristics. Are you thinking about physical characteristics or a 'manner of behavior?' You probably don't want to share this, but, if you do, I'd love to see/hear some of the results you get on a first pass.

It is sometimes hard to remember all these things as you write. Character development traits are one thing that can often be added in later editing of your work. I hope these ideas are as useful to you as they have been to me.

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