courses

Craft of Character | Notes

These are my notes from the Craft of Character online writing class.


WEEK 1

🌐 Conception

The heart of character is who matters to you. Not who you think will be interesting to other people, but what you care about. The heart of an interesting character is somebody that you’ve developed in your imagination, and then we work with the language to put that on the page.

Amy Bloom

Imagine a Character

  1. see them—as a physical being, the body of the character matters
    1. Create an entire list for how the person looks
  2. hear them—how do they sound, how do they express themselves? 
    1. Listen to them
  3. smell them—use all your senses
  4. Invest in the character—what draws you in?

What is at the core of characters is not that they are imaginary, what is at the core of them is your real feelings about them and your wish to make them come alive.

🌐 The Conflict Within

Every writer should aspire to create characters that have their own desires—that want things.

Memorable Dialogue should include two things:

  1. Deepen our understanding of the character
  2. Advance the plot

Dialog is what characters do to one another. It’s active, it moves the story forward.

What makes a memorable character? Desire—your character wants something.

Our flaws are often driven by what it is that we desire most.

Amy Bloom

Read more about Character Desire.

🌐 Desire and Goals

It’s important to give yourself permission to approach your characters and your story in as wide of range as possible. 

The most important part of dialogue is what it reveals about the speaker.

The requirement of the writer is to show, and show, and show some more. And then you get to tell a little bit.

🌐 Hearing, Selecting, and Seeing

What a writer does, in a certain way, is look at the world, leave out everything that isn’t part of the story at hand, and then examine very, very carefully that which remains.

Observation is how we get to know what people look like, what they sound like, how they feel to us, how they move in the world. How they interact with the other characters.

Empathy is the moment where we enter into the character. We don’t just see them and observe them, we see the world as they see it. We experience it as they see it.

Selecting or chipping away of that which does not serve our story. If it doesn’t help move the story along or illuminate the character, or make them visible to the reader, file away for later.

Continue reading “Craft of Character | Notes”
writing

Character Desire

As I aspire to develop my characters further and write more words in my novel, I took the time to develop each character’s desire. That has shown to be a driving force in creating conflict, so it has proven to be helpful as I try to continue writing all the words.

Here are some of my notes from the online course Craft of Character that have helped me develop character desire:

Every writer should aspire to create characters that have their own desires–your character wants something. Our flaws are often driven by what it is that we desire most, and that makes a memorable character.

It’s important to give yourself permission to approach your characters and your story in as wide of range as possible. Use the character’s voice to explain desires–what are they? This will help you make the character matter to the reader.

Desires may lead to character conflict. If you’re stuck in a story, just have another character walk into the room. Create conflict–something uncomfortable, difficult, or incredibly intimate.

It’s important to craft your characters in such a way that they have distinct voices that the reader can identify, to help identify the story. Whose story is it? Whose desire is driving the story?

Read more about my Main Characters HERE
Read more about my Men Characters HERE

writing

Character Sketch

Start Writing Fiction | Week 5

Character Sketch Assignment: Choose one of the methods below, one which is least familiar to you, one you have never tried before:

  • Imagine a character very like you but give them a dramatic external alteration. You might make the character the opposite sex, for example, or make them significantly older or younger. You choose.
  • Imagine a character very like someone you have observed – but give them a dramatic external alteration. You might make the character the opposite sex, for example, or make them significantly older or younger. You choose.
  • Create a character purely on the basis of your imagination or intellectual conception.
  • Create a character using any of the above methods in combination.

Now write a brief character sketch, around 300–500 words, in which you reveal certain aspects of the character. Use a third-person narrator (‘he’ or ‘she’). Here are some things you might like to include in your sketch but this is not an exclusive list – you may not include all of these aspects; you may include other aspects:
appearance
feelings
current circumstances
occupation
voice
attitudes
hopes and fears

Read the assignment I wrote, below, then read the feedback I received from fellow writers.

Mr. Smith stood there with his thumbs in his belt loops and tips of his fingers in his pockets; the dark colored belt stood out against his light khaki pants. His khakis were pulled up so high, maybe it was an attempt to cover up his mid-30’s belly, but the tightly tucked-in white button-up shirt did not hide much.

He lifted his left hand to his big, round glasses and pushed them up on his long nose. He wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. I wonder how he got to be so nerdy? There’s no way he has a girlfriend…

Mr. Smith turned with his side-hair slick staying in place and spoke to me in front of the class:

“Mia! Stop daydreaming and finish the reading quiz. You have 15 minutes until the end of class!”

He stormed across the front of the classroom with his hands in his pockets and plopped into his desk chair. A few students snickered at the disruption and a few giggled at the teacher making a scene.

I felt embarrassed by his reaction. So, once my cheek color turned back to normal, I promptly finished the reading quiz.

When the bell rang, I was the last one to drop the quiz off at his desk. He tilted his head down and looked over his glasses at me. “Is there a reason you are distracted today?” He asked in that fatherly tone.

“Why are you so concerned about me? Why not someone else?” 

“Because you’re my best student,” he smiled, reclined back in his seat and slid his hands behind his head, “I expect a lot from you and when I see you daydreaming I’m only trying to help.”

“I’ve had a difficult time…”

He forcefully pulled his arms down and sat up, “I get it. I’ve seen it in your writing lately,” he picked up a pen and started twirling it between his fingers, “I wanted to tell you about the high school literary journal. I think you should submit something—it can be anonymous if you choose.”

I stood in front of his desk which was a messy disarray of papers, and just held tightly onto my journal, “you mean get published?”

“Yes. Not many freshmen do it, so I think you would stand out.” He paused and stood up. “I see you write a lot about your mother. I was the same way.”

I stood there like a sponge, soaking in what he was saying, but I couldn’t believe he was being so candid with me. “I, uh—“ was then abruptly saved by the one minute warning bell.

“Go along now, you don’t want to be late to your next class.” He said with his fingers back in his pockets and he nodded his head towards the door.

I don’t know if Mr. Smith creeps me out more or makes me smile more. I guess it hurts me to see students make fun of him, for how personable he is about my writing. No other teacher has made me feel this way before.

Meet more characters in my story HERE.

writing

Meet the Men Characters

Writing a story with male characters is an ongoing development as a female author. My main characters are female [mother & daughter] but their stories are told with and about the men in their lives too. Here is a glimpse of their character development.

Mr. Smith – This is Mia’s English teacher who really pushes her to submit writing to the high school literary journal because he has been impressed by her writing. Read a portion of the novel with this character HERE.

Jean Paul Jones “JPJ” – This is Mia’s tutor. He graduated high school at the top of his class, so he offers tutoring for high school students while being enrolled in college full time. Read a portion of the novel with this character HERE.

Vinnie – This is Mandy’s financial advisor. He is married, but they have a dating history from long ago. They’ve been able to keep their professional relationship PG, until recently. Read a portion of the novel with this character HERE.

Cam – This is Mandy’s new fling. They recently met and have been going out on dates.  He is emotionally unavailable because he’s going through a divorce, but when they go out they laugh and have fun together. Read a portion of the novel with this character SOON.

Trey – This is Mandy’s on again, off again boyfriend that seems to come around when he needs money to help the construction business he owns. Always making big promises about staying together and building a life together, but once he pays back the money, he seems to disappear until he needs another loan for a job. They have been a couple for a total of two years. When he is around, he stays at Mandy’s home, and he has a great relationship with her daughter. Mia actually thinks of him as the only suitable father-figure in her life. Trey is confident. His conflicts stem from his anger issues and his lack of commitment.

Meet the Main Characters

writing

Meet the Main Characters

A single mother, Mandy, and teenage daughter, Mia, are separately fighting for attention from the men in their lives. They have a traumatic past, and Mandy’s alcoholism brings them to a place of ultimatums as a broken family.

Mandy is a single 30 year old mother who spends her days drinking and dating multiple men. She had her daughter, Mia, very young, so was home-schooled through high school while her parents helped raise Mia. Her parents died when Mia was almost 5, and left a large inheritance enough-so having a source of income is not needed to survive. Mandy did not continue on with college after her parents passed, but took on raising Mia on her own in her deceased parent’s home. 

Mandy’s Conflict – While she is insistent on having open communication with her own daughter about safe sex, she is not the best role model for a solid relationship. The heavy drinking and unstable relationships cause her to be emotional and unrealistic about life.

See how I further write Mandy’s character HERE.

Mia is a 14 year old high school freshman who has a lot of questions about what life is really all about. She does well in English class because she has the creative mind to write, and she has found poetry is her outlet to frustration with strong encouragement from her English teacher.  Her mom hires a tutor for Mia to help in all the classes she’s failing. Mia falls deeply in love with her tutor, and tries to become girlfriend status.

Mia’s Conflict – Her only role model is breaking at the seams emotionally from her heavy drinking, so starting high school has been very difficult and she is not doing well in most of her classes. She has no father figure to look up to and keeps tabs on her mother and all the men she brings around; longing for one of them to stick around so her mother can stop drinking and be happy. Since her mother has had many talks about safe sex, it has her thinking about finding a boyfriend and having sex asap. 

See how I further build Mia’s character HERE.

Meet the Men | Characters

writing

Writing character

Start Writing Fiction | Week 4

I decided to use my coursework this week and further develop one of my main characters, Mandy. Including some What If questions that really got me thinking.

Mandy finds little interest in anything outside of drinking or men. She has a teenage daughter who is very self-sufficient and Mandy finds herself going to her daughter for support when she is intoxicated and having a bad time with men. Her handle on reality is skewed because she is an heiress who doesn’t need to work for anything, and she has a drunken perspective on life ever since her parents died.

Standing next to her daughter: they are the same height, both have brown eyes, long hair, and their wardrobe is similar with a black tank, jeans and sneakers. Some would guess they are sisters. Mandy is very aloof but her beauty makes her approachable, and as you begin a conversation with her long and dark eyelashes, you begin to see her tiger eyes that hide behind a curtain of bangs. Her eyes tell a story and you want to hear more, but only if you indulge her with a drink first.

What if Mandy woke up and all her money was gone? I don’t think she would know what to do at first, so there would be a panic. Her money is what provides her lifestyle, and unless she’s ok being homeless with a teenage daughter she will have to go out and get a job. One of her first “woe is me” calls would probably be to her financial advisor, Vinnie. 

What if Mandy woke up and found herself in rehab? She would be in denial about having a problem. Not being able to have “a drink” is a problem and if she found herself in a rehab facility, I don’t think she would be willing to try sobriety today. She would probably try to find a way out, and calling her driver, Ferdinand, would be her first attempt.

What if Mandy woke up as a sixteen year old again—and she could redo her first date with Mia’s baby daddy, what would she do differently? If she doesn’t have sex at the end of the date, that would mean Mia would not be conceived. Is that a change that Mandy would be willing to take? While Mandy has wished many times for that night to have never happened to avoid an unwanted teenage pregnancy, difficult young adult years, and inability to keep a man around…not having her daughter there to take care of her today would be a huge loss.

Meet the Main Characters HERE