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Character in Novel Writing


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What do you remember about your favorite book? Was it plot or character? Characters provide the emotion of the story and what we relate to. Where do they come from? How do you develop them?

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Character in Novel Writing

  2. 2. Character Is Pre-Eminent Emotion is more important than logic. Therefore character beats plot. Goals are what characters are striving for. Motivation is why they are striving for their goals.
  3. 3. Motivation Every character thinks the story is about them. Everyone has a core motivation. Victor Frankl called this the ‘One Thing.’ The motivation can be anything. The motivation must be believable to the reader. You need to know it (or uncover it), but does the character?
  4. 4. Blind Spot 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.
  5. 5. Pathological Need In a moment of crisis, what is the driving force? It is a need, not a want. Every need has a corresponding flaw. A pathological need produces a blind spot.
  6. 6. Trait Need Flaw • Loyal • Adventurous • Altruistic • Tolerant • Decisive • Realistic • Competitive • Idealistic • To be trusted • To have change • To be loved • To have no conflict • To be in charge • To be balanced • To achieve goals • To be the best • Gullible • Unreliable • Submissive • No conviction • Impetuous • Outer control • Overlook cost • Naive
  7. 7. Develop Characters 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 character? You have to (or uncover it). Reader doesn’t have to. Less is better.
  8. 8. Protagonist Drives the main story line. Always have one. Reluctant protagonists. Bruce Willis in Die Hard. Empathetic protagonists. We have to feel something about the protagonist. Negative protagonists. Yes, you can have one. Often, everyone else is worse.
  9. 9. Protagonist 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 story.
  10. 10. Antagonist Always have one. Should be human. Has a believable motivation. If removed, the plot collapses. Usually drives the plot by introducing the problem.
  11. 11. Antagonist 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.
  12. 12. 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.
  13. 13. Character Templates Instead of inventing from scratch. Or using real people. Also use these to understand characters and real people. Use what experts have already done for you: Profiling Archetypes Myers-Briggs
  14. 14. Profiling 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?
  15. 15. Archetypes-- Gender Differences Female • Boss • Seductress • Spunky kid • Free spirit • Waif • Librarian • Crusader • Nurture Male • Chief • Bad boy • Best friend • Charmer • Lost soul • Professor • Swashbuckler • Warrior The same person, labeled by gender.
  16. 16. Myers-Briggs Types • INTP= Architect • ENTP= Inventor • INTJ= Scientist • ENTJ= Field Marshall • INFP= Questor • ENFP= Journalist • INFJ= Author • ENJF= Pedagogue • ESJF= Seller • ISFJ= Conservator • ESFP= Entertainer • ISFP= Artist • ESTJ= Administrator • ISTJ= Trustee • ESTP= Promoter • ISTP= Artisan
  17. 17. Gives you 16 character types. Where characters are different in one of the letters, you have potential sources of personal conflict. Myers-Briggs Types
  18. 18. Character And Change Can people change? Change produces character arc. You want to show change, not tell it. Change requires three things to happen . . .
  19. 19. Moment Of Enlightenment Experience something never experienced before. 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 momentary awareness.
  20. 20. Decision 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 change) or Sticks with the decision (internally motivated change) By itself, a decision is not change, just a fleeting commitment.
  21. 21. Sustained Action Because of the decision, behavior is changed. The changed behavior is sustained long enough to become habit. In the military, this is called training. Sustained action leads to change.
  22. 22. The Emotional Stages Of Change Denial Anger Bargaining Depression Acceptance
  23. 23. The Climax & Character Arc If you want arc, then by the end of the book we want to know our protagonist has changed. They act differently. Take your protagonist as she is at the beginning of the book and put her in the climactic scene. She should fail. If she does, then you have arc.
  24. 24. “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.” ~Terry Gilliam
  25. 25. For more free slideshows on writing, survival, history and other topics, go to:
  26. 26. How to write the book How to be an author “A book to inspire, instruct and challenge the writer in everyone.” #1 NY Times Best-Selling Author Susan Wiggs "An invaluable resource for beginning and seasoned writers alike. Don't miss out." #1 NY Times Best-Selling Author Terry Brooks
  27. 27. “In Who Dares Wins, Bob Mayer gives us a unique and valuable window into the shadowy world of our country’s elite fighting forces and how you can apply many of the concepts and tactics they use for success in your own life and organization.” Jack Canfield: Co-creator Chicken Soup for the Soul and The Success Principles “Success in life—as in combat—has always demanded depth of character. Who Dares Wins reveals what it takes for you to move into the world of elite warriors and how their training developed that Can Do spirit and Special Forces ethos of excellence.” Lewis C. Merletti: Director United States Secret Service (retired), Former Sgt 5th Special Forces Group (Vietnam); Cleveland Browns Executive Vice President & COO
  28. 28. New York Times bestselling author, graduate of West Point and former Green Beret. He’s had over 80 books published across an array of genres, including the #1 bestselling series Green Berets, Shadow Warriors, Time Patrol, Area 51, and Atlantis. He’s presented for over 1,000 organizations during three decades of writing full time. If you’re interested in his weekend intensive workshop or having him present for your group, email him at: