Several months ago I shared in Seekerville a few of the books on characterization I have on my bookshelves. Today I’d like to highlight a few more that you may find helpful in stimulating your imagination and polishing your fictional people.
Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors (Brandilyn Collins – 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) A bestselling inspirational women’s fiction and suspense author, Brandilyn is also a student of drama. In this book she builds on the theatrical Method Acting theory to address how to create convincing, 3-dimensional characters. Chapters include “Putting the spark of life in your character’s mannerisms;””The inner rhythm and portrayal of emotion,” and “Accessing your emotion memory.”
What Would Your Character Do? Personality Quizzes for Analyzing Your Characters (Eric Maisel and Ann Maisel – 2006 Writer’s Digest Books) If you can’t resist filling out those women’s magazine personality tests, you’ll enjoy using this book to “quiz” your characters and come to understand them at a deeper level. Using 30 scenarios (including family picnic, poolside encounter, lover’s spat, sudden leadership, deathbed secret, etc.), you place your character into the imaginary scene. Then you answer a series of multiple-choice and open-ended questions from your character’s point of view. It’s a great way to gain a new perspective on that hero and heroine.
Dynamic Characters: How to create personalities that keep readers captivated (Nancy Kress – 1998 Writer’s Digest Books) Plots might intrigue us, but it’s usually identifying with the characters living out those plots that keeps us reading and remembering the story long after we’ve put the book aside. The book is broken into three sections of Creating Strong & Believable Characters 1) The Externals, 2) The Internals, and 3) Character and Plot. The sections are chockfull of chapters such as “The role of setting in creating character,” “Making clear what, when and how your character is thinking,” and “How to make character change a strong element of the plot.”
Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and exercises for crafting dynamic characters and effective viewpoints – Nancy Kress – 2005 Writer’s Digest Books)
Like Kress’ earlier book, this one gives you lots to think about as you “assemble your cast.” Chapters include “Emotion Suggested: using metaphor, symbol and sensory detail to convey feeling,” “Point of View: whose emotions are we sharing?” and “Frustration: the most useful emotion in fiction.”
We all know there’s no such thing as a magic “how to” book that has all the answers to our writing challenges. And a book on writing won’t sit itself down and type out our manuscript for us. But periodically I enjoy delving into a new book on our craft (or re-reading an old favorite) that makes me think about things I may not have given much thought to in quite some time. If you’re like me, a book may allow you to take a second look at familiar story components through new eyes. It will challenge you to grow as a writer and add new skills to your writing repertoire.