What a character! I’ll never forget him….
by Jessica Brown, Screenwriter and Board Member of Phoenix Screenwriters Association
Ask family and friends who their favorite character is from a movie or show, and everyone will come up with at least one or two. They might even do an imitation or repeat their favorite line from that character.
How do writers create characters that we all fall in love with, relate to, want to follow each week, or who remind us of someone we know?
Maybe you have tried to create such a character using people you know, or are related to as your role model, yet your audience failed to connect with that character. This character might be clear as day in your head, yet on the page they turn into someone else that doesn’t quite work for your story or your audience.
I have a great resource that can save you from this frustrating experience:
Write Characters Your Readers Won’t Forget by Stant Litore. His “nonfiction” name is Daniel Fusch, Ph.D. and his workbook is a great guide to add to your writers toolkit of books to help you bring life into your character.
The exercises and story examples will help you to bring the character in your head to life on the page in a way your audience will never forget.
Some of the chapter titles give you an idea of how you are going to do this:
- Why We Fall In Love
- First Date With Your Character
- Alive On The Page
- The Dialogue We Crave
- The Character Arc: Your Chisel
- Overcoming Your Own Barriers
Don’t let the titles scare you away from this book. While some might sound frilly and silly, they are really well thought out titles that help you, as the writer, to connect with your characters.
One of my favorite gems is the explanation of why audiences fall in love or never forget great characters. “Great Characters show strength of will. They may be physically weak, they may be even morally weak, but when it comes down to the wire, they have the will to make very difficult choices.” When we see strength of will, we sit up and pay attention Stant tells us. He leverages the story “True Grit” as an example as he tells us “Whoever your characters are, you need to find out what gives them their grit.”
Whether you are writing a first draft or re-writing version 120, that little gem works as an “aha” moment for us all. I know I immediately went back at my scenes to see if my main character had grit. My antagonist does. But my hero could use a bit more grit.
Another gem from this wonderful workbook: Good dialogue reveals who our characters are. Ask yourself: What do each of my characters need (emotionally) out of this conversation? “Aha!” Back I go to my script to see if I have included emotional needs in my dialogue or are they just information dumping on my audience?
I love how Stant gets writers through his exercises to mold and shape their dialogue much like a sculptor molds clay to form a three dimensional statue. He shows us by playing with dialogue, pauses, reveals and conceals our audience will bond with our characters.
Stant also rewards us with another gem as he talks about Character Arcs and how to craft an outline that is a tool , not a table of contents or summary. His exercise on finding your 4-7 scenes that contain the critical moments along your character’s emotional journey will become your guardrail to keep your story and character on track.
There is a particular quote in the book that really resonated with me as a writer: “You want to collect exercises that push you to the edge of what you can do.”
Stant’s book, with it’s deep well of exercises and questions, keep the writer engaged and crafting characters we won’t forget.
So does Stant, um, Daniel, have the credentials on this subject? He sure does. His Ph.D. is in English from the University of Denver. His fiction has been acclaimed by NPR, has served as the topic for scholarly work in Relegere and Weird Fiction Review. He has been hailed as San Francisco’s premier poet of loneliness. He does not currently own a starship or a time machine but would rather like to. He is also the author of several fiction novels.
If you would like to know more about Stant, you can find him at firstname.lastname@example.org. HIs writing motto: “Write fearlessly-edit strategically!”
Well said Stant. I won’t soon forget your motto or your book. Happy Writing Fellow Writers!
P. S. I’ll be on vacation August 8 through 23 seeking cooler weather with my family. Feel Free to drop me a line at email@example.com should you find this book unforgettable. I would love to hear how you are making your characters come to life on the page.