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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What a Character!

We've all experienced it. Long after we've put down a book, a character stays with us. Rhett Butler, Scarlett O'Hara, Blanche DeBois, the Corleones... the name of the book isn't even necessary because the character conjures up the images.

There are very few authors who can simply pick up a pen (or a keyboard) and develop characters on a par with these. For the rest of us, it means exploring the technical part of writing and not simply depending upon the creative process.

What does this mean exactly, when working with character development?

For me, it means a shelf of reference books to help me develop the characters I need. And in turn, many times this research leads to making the plot richer and more complex.

Here are a few of the books I routinely turn to:

Linda Goodman's Sun Signs: Whether you believe in astrology doesn't matter. Simply reading the personality traits and characteristics of various sun signs provides the basis for some very interesting and diverse characters. Consider a roller coaster with 12 riders; each one reacts to the same ride in a completely different manner. This book has helped me break out of a particular mold for any set of characters.

Linda Goodman's Love Signs: This book takes things one step further by detailing the interaction between two characters. It could be used, as the name suggests, to establish two lovers. Or it could be use in an opposite manner to create an antagonistic relationship between an employer and employee, a parent and child, two siblings, a love/hate relationship. The possibilities are endless.

Building Believable Characters I purchased from the Writer's Digest Book Club and the pages are worn from all the use it gets. It has helped me flesh out physical characteristics, from body shapes and sizes to the color of eyes, skin tones, and off-the-beaten trail descriptions.

Careers for Your Characters was also purchased from the Writer's Digest Book Club. It's a great resource for establishing unique employment and what those forms of employment would expect from the character, the types of personalities suited to those jobs, and how different job types would work together - or against one another.

The Writer's Digest Flip Dictionary is a great resource not just for character descriptions but also for finding the right word in a very unique presentation. Far more than a thesaurus or dictionary, this book can broaden your vocabulary and make descriptions rich and detailed.

Those are just a few of my favorites. What are yours?

Vicki's Key, p.m.terrell's 13th book, was released on St Patrick's Day! Buy it on amazon in trade paperback or Kindle. It is also available for the iPad, Nook, and other eReaders.