Many years ago my writing friend, Sara Huff, gave me a paperback book titled: Fiction is Folks by Robert Newton Peck. The subtitle on the cover reads: “Characters are what readers remember, what editors look for, and what turn aspiring writers into published authors.” SO TRUE! Mr. Peck has been writing for a while, listing upwards of fifty-five novels, six books of nonfiction, thirty-five songs, three television specials and over 100 poems to his resume. Much of his success he credits to his teacher—Miss Kelly. “She taught first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth in a tumble-down, one-room, dirt-road school in rural Vermont,” Peck tells his readers. “She believed in scholarship, manners, and soap.” Do you already have an image in your minds? Yes, I’m sure you do. And creating such images—intricately detailed ones—is how Peck develops his characters.
Following Robert Peck’s example (and the pattern of many well-known and established authors) I offer the following simple concepts about character development. They blend several philosophies about character types and have helped me see the people who walk and talk in the fiction and non-fiction stories I enjoy reading.
- Who makes you laugh? Who makes you cry? These two seemingly opposite emotions are crucial in developing layered elements of any character type—because—laughing and crying are major pieces in everyone’s life. The personality elements that bring out these reactions in people will help you create very believable characters.
- Who makes you feel safe? Who makes you feel afraid? Security and fear are two components that heighten a character’s makeup and set the stage for multiple possibilities within the plot—the storyline—of any book. The human DNA seeks security and fears the loss of it. Therefore, the writer must understand these facets of their characters from as many perspectives as possible.
- What do you believe—at your core? What do you have real doubts about? These two character aspects (at least for the main group of characters) give writers miles of material for character and plot development. Dialogue develops naturally from the interplay between characters who not only hold conflicting beliefs and doubts, but who agree with each other on various levels of the same beliefs and doubts.
Although these three concepts seem ultra-simplistic, they are not. The writer who avoids developing them will end up with paper-doll characters who barely breathe in the pages of the book. As writers we have been given an extremely valuable gift—a legacy passed forward to us by multiple generations who may have never owned a book of their own. Robert Peck acknowledges this in his headline statement on his Internet Homepage. It reads: “If I possess any wisdom at all, most of it was given me by a mother, father, an aunt, and a grandmother…none of whom could read or write.”
So it is that I encourage you in your writing efforts to be the best writer you can be at any given moment in time. Hopefully, we all continue growing in our craft. To that end, I suggest adding another of Mr. Peck’s books to your resources library: HOW to Write Fiction Like a Pro—A Simple-to-Savvy Toolkit for Aspiring Authors.
May each and every one be blessed with exceptional inspiration this day as you develop your own writing legacy to pass forward in ALL the books you PUBLISH!
|ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.|