Tuesday, November 16

Character Development: A Guest Post by Diana Paz

Hello guys! So while I'm recovering I have arranged for my three critique partners to do guest posts for you this week!  First up is Diana Paz!

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Hi everyone, I’m Diana Paz. ~waves hello~ Natalie is recovering from her surgery and as her devoted and adoring friend, I’m here to help with a guest post about character development.

I’m *not* a character development wizard, not by a long shot. But when Nat asked me about guest-posting, I remembered some great workshops I took while at the SCBWI conference last summer. My character development notes are all jumbled together from two workshops, one by YA author Carolyn Mackler and the other by Claudia Gabel, an editor at a YA imprint at Harper Collins and also a YA writer herself.

They both talked in depth about character development and creating believable characters. Here’s what I learned:

Know what your main characters want. What they want will drive their actions.

 Understand your character.

  • Claudia Gabel suggested writing up character “resumes” that included everything about the character.
  • Not only birthday and favorites, but hobbies, most liked and least liked people in their lives (and why), whether they read magazines, what kind of TV shows/movies they watch. Go on and on! Music, holidays, there’s no limit. She said for her own books, she easily had ten to twenty pages of character background!
  • Think about how your character reacts to situations that don’t relate to your book/story. What does he/she do on a rainy day? What is his/her reaction to witnessing a shoplifter? How does he/she tackle a boring assignment/chore/job?
By knowing what your character wants, and understanding your character, you’ll be able to create scenes that are genuine to that character. And your character will feel believable, making the entire scene, chapter and book believable.

By the end of the book, there should be a notable shift in what your character wants. Character growth is show when he/she no longer wants the same thing--or wants the same thing but for different reasons.

Dialogue should be unique to each of your characters, especially main characters. Dialogue should *not* be interchangeable.
  • If you’d be able to have a different character say the same thing a main character says, in the same way, the dialogue isn’t unique enough.
  • Without attribution, a main character’s speech should be recognizable.
  • All this happens because you as the writer *know* your character.
Try to sum up your character in two words, one adjective and one noun. For example, willful snob, rebellious loner, overbearing busybody. Just like you can think of one or two words to describe your closest friends, you should quickly be able to do so for your characters.

I really enjoyed these workshops and this conference, and I learned a lot. I’ve noticed that after writing up character resumes, scenes flow a bit faster. I’m more in tuned with my characters, and I know more readily their reactions. I hope that by understanding my characters that much better, my story overall will be that much stronger.

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Thank you Di!  Tomorrow we have Melissa from Chasing the Dream coming in, so make sure to stop by!

11 comments:

  1. Great post Di! I created character profile sheets before I started drafting, and it really helped a lot. But one thing I did discover is that I still didn't know them as well as I thought. Sometimes it takes getting through the first draft before you really know them:)

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  2. Nice! I've been lazy and avoided things like this, but after doing some role playing conversations as my characters, I can tell you, knowing how they'd react to things is so very telling of who they are. Thanks for the info. You are so awesome :D *waves to Nat*

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  3. Nice to meet a fellow Calgarian. :)

    Nice work on this post too, Di!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  4. Great stuff, thanks, Diana! I was just whining on my post this morning that I need to do some more character development work. And here it is!

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  5. Di- Thanks so much for being such a good friend to Natalie by going out of your way like this. It was very kind ♥.

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  6. Yay for Di! I always <3 her posts, and this is no exception.

    My characters usually come to me so complete they're like talking and stuff. But this is still great advice to help flesh them out even more. Thanks for sharing!

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  7. That's great advice, Diane. Thanks! Natalie, I hope you heal up quickly.

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  8. Hi all!! I've had an unexpectedly busy day and haven't gotten the chance to drop in!

    Melissa- You're so smart to have started character sheets from the get-go. I have to admit, I never really did this kind of thing until after my second novel *blushes* But you're right, there's nothing like writing a draft to REALLY get to know them.

    Tina- You and I must have been conjoined twins, connected at the brain... I avoided these kinds of things like the plague before too! I can't say I'm as good as I should be, but I'm trying!

    Angela- Thanks, I'm MUCH more rambly on my own blog. This time I tried really hard to stay focused and make Natalie proud!! I <3 Natalie!!!!!

    Teri Anne- How funny!! I hope you found some things here that are helpful. I don't do all the things I could, but I'm trying to be better about doing the character backgrounds at least.

    Lynne- You're sooo sweet, Natalie is a lucky girl to have you for her mommy! I'm still in awe over your incredible cakes making skills! Be sure to tell Natalie I miss her and especially that I'm thrilled there doesn't seem to be permanent damage. xoxoxoxo

    Shannon- I'll never forget your blogfest about the girl who used to be heavy, who's now getting attention from a guy-- those characters were so real, and that was just a snippet! You're fantastic at creating real characters, so whatever method you have going for you, it's working!

    Angie- I wish I'd have taken better notes, but I'm glad what I had was helpful! Now if only I take more of this advice myself haha!!

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  9. And Natalie- Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog for the day! It's fun seeing your followers reactions to my post :) I hope you're feeling better and we all can't wait to see you back up and writing again! Lots of love and *hugs!*

    xo
    Di

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  10. Di - I will pass that on. Stop it! You're making me blush...

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  11. Di- Great post!! Thank you for posting for me!! =) xoxo ♥

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