Saturday, March 31, 2012


Characterization isn’t about the fool at your last holiday party everyone laughed at then dissected on the drive home. It’s the life of your hero, heroine, and all secondary characters beyond their height, weight, and eye color in your novel.

Let’s do a cast call.

Starring Roles;

Johnny the Hero
Liz the Heroine

Supporting Cast;

Fred – Johnny’s best friend
Pam – Liz’s best friend
Marge – Johnny’s mother


Taxi Driver

Of the above group, the only roles needing a characterization are the stars and supporting cast. The Walk-Ons are too minor to worry about.

Award-winning author Beth Anderson, mentor extraordinaire, spent many a long night explaining to me why writing a characterization is important. Since we don’t have forever here, I’ll crunch it down.

The writer must know the history of their characters. Their past events are what make them be the people they are today. It is what has driven them to be honest, strong, or steal. You won’t know why your hero runs into the burning building to save the heroine if you don’t understand his history.

So how do you so this? Very easy, but time consuming. Don’t fudge on this. It’s too important to writing a novel that will impress an editor.

The stars need an extensive characterization. Following is the process;

1 - Park yourself at your computer. Each characterization will take several hours so relax and enjoy.

2 - Choose one of the lead characters.

3 - Imagine you are that person. We’ll use Johnny for the example.

4 - Just type. Bang out his life starting at boyhood. Write in his voice. It’s amazing how your phrases will alter as he ages. Bring him up to the starting point of your novel. Include every detail no matter how unimportant it may seem. Let your mind run on and you will be Johnny, living the high points of his youth and what drove him to the man where your story begins. You’re in Johnny’s point of view. Did he pee his pants in third grade? What really happened? What did he see, smell, and feel inside?

Don’t worry about punctuation, grammar, or spelling. Just type. No one else will ever read your work.

Do this with your heroine as well.

You have finally finished your stars. It’s time to begin on your supporting cast. They’ll take much less time since they aren’t nearly as important. You don’t have to start in their childhood. Type up a brief bio, something similar to an obituary of a famous person.

I took Beth’s method one step farther to help me drop the back-story, which we’ll discuss Friday, into my novel.

Below are the four easy steps;

1 – Print out each characters history.

2 – List all the highpoints on a separate sheet of paper. The order doesn’t matter.

3 - As you write your novel drop in a line or two of back-story at the appropriate time to enrich the action of your character.

4 – Cross off the lines used and write next to them which page you’ve inserted it.

This method will help you build stronger characters with real motivation your reader and editor will love.
Sloane Taylor

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