Friday, September 30, 2011

Story-crafting Elements

Greetings from Kaye Spencer!

Today I'm going to share my thoughts on character development. I believe the most important element in a story is "character". Characters are the people in the story. These are the people you're writing about. They are the hero and heroine in a romance or the protagonist and antagonist in any genre. Your setting may be exciting and exotic, your conflict may be deep and gut-wrenching, but without carefully crafted characters, you have no story.

 It is your job as the writer to develop their personalities, mannerisms, beliefs, greatest fears and deepest desires. You give them longings, joys, idiosyncrasies, and flaws. Generally, you'll make the reader fall in love with the hero and heroine and despise the villain. Sometimes, the protagonist and antagonist are not clearly defined and the reader will be torn over this. This is good. You want readers to throw themselves emotionally into your story. In order to make the reader remember your characters, you must make them come alive to the reader so the reader will care about the characters' dreams, fears, and frustrations just as if they were real people in everyday life. Don't overlook the importance of secondary character as critical elements to the development of the story and a tool in which to help define the main characters. It is not unusual for an author to write a spin=-off story for a secondary character.

You accomplish all this through characterization. This is the process by which authors communicate their characters' personalities, idiosyncrasies, and behaviors to readers. There are two types of characterization:

1) Direct characterization occurs when the author tells readers about a character directly.
2) Indirect characterization lets readers draw their own conclusions from clues in the story, such as a character's appearance, tone of voice, or behavior.

A word of caution regarding character development... Readers in general tend to expect a likable protagonist and a dislikable antagonist. In romance, if you write a whiny, obnoxious, helpless heroine who doesn't grow and mature throughout the book, your readers won't like her and won't look forward to your next book. It is likewise with the hero. He can be cocky, over-bearing, self-centered, and insensitive (classic characteristics of the Alpha Male Hero), but you'd better balance those traits with ones that eventually endear him to your readers.

Bottom line is this: The Number 1 Characterization Rule - People are not one dimensional, so make sure your characters aren't either.

Until next time...

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