Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Characters Count

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Good day, Writers,

We all know two of the things required in a novel are story and characters. Today, we’ll speak a bit about how to develop those people, or even creatures, which populate your manuscript.

The reason it’s important you know these character types is to give you, as their creator, molds with which to build characters your reader will appreciate. For we all know if your reader can not identify with those in the story, they will not read, (which also translates to “buy”), your book.

As with The Hero’s Journey, we learned how formula within storytelling will assist you in creating a readable tale. Molds for characters will accomplish the same thing and insure your readers enjoy your story.

Another benefit to molds is they provide built-in conflict, also necessary for a good story.

Consider, if you will, a soft-chinned character that never raises his voice, never moves at more than three miles an hour and shrinks from adversity at every opportunity. Now contrast him to a hero with a bold chin which he sticks into every crevasse within your story. He flies aircraft three feet above the ground at a thousand miles an hour and charges into his enemies with sword swinging. Which is the more interesting character? The crazy guy, of course.

Could it be he’s designed upon a time-tested character mold?

Though some consider only five molds, I like to present nine. They are:

Lawful Good
Lawful Neutral
Lawful Evil

Neutral Good
Neutral Evil

Chaotic Good
Chaotic Neutral
Chaotic Evil

Hum… There’s even a formula even within character types.

Let’s first consider Lawful Good. This guy never fails to act with honor and a sense of duty. Whom might you think of in a story that would fit this mold? Superman, perhaps? What kind of conflicts would this type of person face? What if he’s given his word never to draw his weapon in front of his little girl but now the bad guys are holding his daughter hostage?

Next in line is the Lawful Neutral character. This guy reminds me of a sheriff or someone who follows a personal code. He always follows the rule of law regardless his personal feelings for good vs. evil have little room in his mind. He might be a battlefield corpsman who treats the enemy with as much compassion as his own men. His conflict comes into play when good and evil are the one and the same. A good example of the Lawful Neutral is James Bond.

Next comes the Lawful Evil. This guy is usually the diabolical character in the story. He uses the system to his own benefit. He typically keeps his word and follows instructions but cares little for others. His conflict arises when that rare person he does care for crosses his path.
The classic example of this character is Magneto is X-Men.

The Neutral Good character usually acts in a moral fashion without considering laws or tradition. He does not hesitate to act in unison with the authorities, but does not consider them the end-all of righteousness. His natural conflict is found in differences between contradictory things that are both correct. Consider the doctor who must decide if he is to save the man who raped his daughter or let him die. I like Spiderman for an example.

Considering the fully Neutral character, we might find Han Solo. He typically has no feelings toward good and evil. He has little to no moral judgment and often plays both sides of the fence. His conflict arises when that rare person or thing for which he does care gets into a pickle.

We now have the Neutral Evil character. Here we find those selfish personages with no qualms of turning against their benefactors the instant someone else comes along with a better offer. He doesn’t care if they harm others but neither does he go out of his way to cause damage to them. He simply cares only for himself. When might his conflict give him pause? Find what means something to him and take it away. Consider Mustique in X-Men as your example.

Next, let’s discuss the Chaotic Good character. This guy is your typical rebel. He hates bureaucracies and feels personal freedom is of utmost importance. His purpose is to do what is correct but his methodologies often conflict with everyone else’s sense of right and wrong. He’ll step out of line if it suits the greater good. A possibility of conflict might arise when a soldier is forced to assassinate his commander to save his fellows soldiers. Think Robin Hood.

Now to the Chaotic Neutral character. This is usually the free spirit who answers only to his heart and often ignores law and tradition. He acts only out of self-interest but does not intend for others to get hurt in the process. Their most endearing quality is their complete lack of reliability. Conflict for them is rampant in the lives of those around them. Captain Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean fame is our example.

Finally, we have the Chaotic Evil character to face. This is the BAD GUY in every respect. He cares for no one and nothing save his own personal pleasure. This guy never went to kindergarten and has not learned to share or play nice. They see honor as a weakness and enjoy seeing others suffer. His conflict comes when he does not get his way. Think The Joker in The Black Knight.

There ya have it. If you create characters that fit into these molds, you’ll have a good story. Simple, isn’t it?

Until my next posting, good writing.


Monday, October 5, 2009

A New Editing Method?

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Good day, Writers,

As many of you know, I’m in the process of sending my manuscript Born to be Brothers to agents for representation. What this means is there have been three people editing this thing a total of ten times from first word to last – my agent twice, my wife twice and me six times. Further, six others did a beta review! (Whew…) That’s sixteen edits!

My wife Kate has supported my writing without hesitation from the first minute and is by far my best cheerleader. (I’ve ordered pom-poms but they’ve yet to arrive.). As I began sending “Born to be Brothers” to agents for representation, Kate made a suggestion. She asked if she shouldn’t read it aloud to me to see if that might improve it even more. After so much editing, even reading it aloud to myself three times, (complete with character accents), I assumed her idea would be of little value. Still, it might be interesting to hear it, after reading it so many times. But edit it again? Nah… It’s been edited to death! Right?


Well, we’re at page forty-two, of four hundred plus, and I’ve already altered the ms thirty seven times! Some alterations were simple synonym insertions while with others entire paragraphs were rewritten.

My point, of course, is Kate enlightened me to an entirely new methodology of editing which is proving invaluable. The upshot in my case was to immediately cease sending Born to be Brothers for agenting. You can bet I’ll be working on it another week or two before I start that oppressive undertaking again.

I do, have a question, though. How among of you knew this and why didn’t anyone tell me?

I do hope my experience has given you yet another tool to improve your writing.

Until my next posting, good writing.