Kubler-Ross’s stages of death and dying also the editorial process
Paul Newman & Melanie Griffin--
Change leads us to Leadership
Character in Novel Writing
Character Is Pre-Eminent
Emotion is more important than logic.
Therefore character beats plot.
Goals are what characters are striving
Motivation is why they are striving for
Every character thinks the story is about
Everyone has a core motivation.
Victor Frankl called this the ‘One Thing.’
The motivation can be anything.
The motivation must be believable to the
You need to know it (or uncover it), but
does the character?
Needs produce blind spots.
Everyone has blind spots.
As an author, make sure you know yours.
Strongest defenses are built around the blind
spot. Therefore . . .
Often the blind spot is the part of character
thought to be the strongest.
Denial defends blinds spot and justifies needs.
Blind spots are the making of tragedy.
In a moment of crisis, what is the driving
It is a need, not a want.
Every need has a corresponding flaw.
A pathological need produces a blind spot.
Trait Need Flaw
• To be trusted
• To have change
• To be loved
• To have no
• To be in charge
• To be balanced
• To achieve goals
• To be the best
• No conviction
• Outer control
• Overlook cost
Where do your characters come from?
Invented or real life?
How does the reader meet them?
How do you get to know people?
What do we see in their first scene.
What was the key point in their life?
Do you know everything about your
You have to (or uncover it).
Reader doesn’t have to.
Less is better.
Drives the main story line.
Always have one.
Reluctant protagonists. Bruce Willis in Die
Empathetic protagonists. We have to feel
something about the protagonist.
Negative protagonists. Yes, you can have one.
Often, everyone else is worse.
What if your protagonist fails?
If you are going to have character arc, the
protagonist would usually fail in the climactic
scene being who they are as the book opens.
Their arc is the change through the story to be
someone who will succeed.
If they fail, it reveals what’s at stake in your
Always have one.
Should be human.
Has a believable motivation.
If removed, the plot collapses.
Usually drives the plot by introducing the
Do the antagonist’s plan before writing.
If you are going to google “how to kill my
spouse” for a murder mystery do it on a friend’s
computer, not your own.
Stronger antagonist= stronger protagonist.
Show, Don’t Tell
Actions speak louder than words.
Do your characters react ‘naturally’?
Give the spark of redemption in the
beginning if you want to arc a character
with that theme.
Instead of inventing from scratch.
Or using real people.
Also use these to understand characters and
Use what experts have already done for you:
FBI Behavioral Science Unit: John Douglas:
MINDHUNTER-- tracking serial killers.
But you can profile anyone.
99% of what we do is habit.
Habit= behavior patterns.
Examine the results and work back.
What are your characters’ habits?
Archetypes-- Gender Differences
• Spunky kid
• Free spirit
• Bad boy
• Best friend
• Lost soul
The same person, labeled by gender.
Gives you 16 character types.
Where characters are different in one of
the letters, you have potential sources
of personal conflict.
Character And Change
Can people change?
Change produces character arc.
You want to show change, not tell it.
Change requires three things to happen
. . .
Moment Of Enlightenment
Experience something never
Experience something you’ve
experience before, but it affects you
differently than ever before.
This is the classic ‘’light bulb going on’.
By itself, it is not change, just a
Because of the Moment of Enlightenment, a
decision is made.
It is not necessarily a good decision.
Character is then:
Stuck with the decision (externally imposed
Sticks with the decision (internally motivated
By itself, a decision is not change, just a
Because of the decision, behavior is
The changed behavior is sustained long
enough to become habit.
In the military, this is called training.
Sustained action leads to change.
The Emotional Stages Of
The Climax & Character Arc
If you want arc, then by the end of the book
we want to know our protagonist has
They act differently.
Take your protagonist as she is at the
beginning of the book and put her in the
She should fail.
If she does, then you have arc.
“Talent is less important in film-
making than patience. If you
really want your films to say
something that you hope is
unique, then patience and
stamina, thick skin and a kind of
stupidity, a mule-like stupidity, is
what you really need.”
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