Getting Into Character

Today’s writing session started early and ended quickly.  I found myself asking the following questions: 

  1. Is my main character flat?
  2. Am I using direct or indirect characterization?
  3. Is my story being plot driven or character driven?

Here’s what I came up with:
1)…The last thing I want is to write a book and then in hindsight realize my protagonist is lacking because I didn’t make her all she could be.  I think in order to make sure you don’t create a boring character, they have to be reactive, and those actions must define who they are to the reader. 
       My main character has been through a life-altering event that has left her a) scared of being hurt again b) bitter, and 3) reluctant to jump back into life.
       Now…I always thought of her as funny…one of those grand people that are hilarious because of how they react to bad situations, but that’s not how she’s coming off at all.  Why?  I think because I feel sorry for her.  I’m not taunting her enough.  The thing writers must remember is this:
       So…I must challenge her.  I must give her something to react to that will not only show the reader her character, but also propel her into the next conflict.  That’s what makes a story roll, people.

2)…Indirect and Direct Characterization==> Fancy words for Showing and Telling.  If you’ve read my blog at all, you’ve seen the three weeks worth of posts devoted to show and tell.  It seems an easy concept, but when you’re writing, you often don’t even realize when an opportunity to show instead of tell is simply skipped over.
For clarification: 

  • Characterization= the method used to develop a character
  • Indirect Characterization= When information about a character is revealed through thoughts, speech, actions, dialogue.
  • Direct Characterization= When information about a character is revealed by the author. 

     I think my struggle is with the fact that my manuscript is in first person which entails revealing inner thoughts.  I have to remember that the protagonist is telling the story…NOT ME.  Whatever she reveals should be necessary info.  Her thoughts should have purpose and bring insight and even anticipation of what is to come.  SHOWING IS NOT JUST DETAILED DESCRIPTION.  It is a process of revealing the deepest parts of your character…taking the invisible and making it visible.  Don’t write a long paragraph about the setting if it doesn’t somehow affect the character.  Yes…sunsets are beautiful, but explain the significance it has to the character in that moment.

3)…Plot or Character Driven==> (the question really is Character Driven or Writer Driven)..I want this novel to be character driven, but it’s almost as if she’s disconnected from what’s happening around her…no control.  And to those who know me, the control-freak that I am, this is odd.  But…in saying that, it now makes perfect sense.  I…the writer…have to let go and give the protagonist the control.  It’s that simple.  This goes back to problem #1.  Your novel can be character driven as long as you give the characters conflict to respond to.  Their decisions will inevitably make your book a page turner or not.

So…this is my ramble for the day, and now I’m off to re-read and re-edit. 
Do you ever struggle with any of this??

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  1. Interesting post!

    I'm still working out how I form my characters. so much for me just happens intrinsically (not necessarily great), but I really do want to nail down and articulate how it works for me one day.

  2. Every writer struggles to create a character that will engage, that will elude the genre's cliche, and readers will want to root for.

    Would the reader want to be your character? Is her life thrilling and exciting? Does she have spunk. Does she spring back when life knocks her on the ropes?

    Look at the two IRON MAN movies. Most everyone you meet will love the Tony Stark character as played by Robert Downey, Jr. He is brass, confident, and those eyes tell you that somewhere beneath that swagger is a hurt spirit which he protects with his swagger.

    For my latest character, Victor Standish, I created a 13 year old version of Tony Stark. Brass, never say die, and oh, so lonely. He is brave because he truly has nothing to lose. In the end of the novel, he is brave because his friends have so much to lose that he would rather die than see them hurt.

    And that is the pivotal focus for your character : change. Does the last chapter compare to the first chapter like those before and after pictures in those diet ads? If so, then you've done your job.