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Developing Characters

This is a lesson on character development

Clifford Petersen

on 5 April 2011

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Transcript of Developing Characters

Glaciers Quick Start Close Your Eyes Developing Characters The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.
-Ernest Hemingway August Wilson's Rules of Writing
There are no rules.
The first rule is wrong so pay attention
You can't write for an audience; the writer's first job is to survive.
You can make no mistakes, but anything you write can be made better. 1)Discuss with your table any historical events or figures that you find intriguing and why you find them to be so.
2)Make a list of as many of these figures or events as you can think of.
3)Select 3 of these and write for 5 minutes on each of them. You will want to explore how you could use these events of figures in a work of fiction and what metaphorical possibilities may exist.
The Iceberg Theory This story illustrates what we as writers need to do with out characters. Start out with our sketchy shadowy preconceived notions and flesh them out, make them come alive. For a character to be convincing they must appear to the reader to be deeper than what is actually on the written page. What does that mean for the author/writer? The Importance of Truth If we are writing fiction why is truth important? Gabriel Garcia Marquez
-Author of
No One Writes to the Colonel (1957)
One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)
Autumn of the Patriarch (1975)
Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981)
Love in the Time of Cholera (1985)
General in His Labyrinth, the (1989)
Of Love and Other Demons (1994)
News of a Kidnapping (1996) One way for the writer to to get inside their character is to begin with the truth --
True Experience
True Scene actually witnessed or overheard
True Emotion "Claims that there is not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality."
-Gabriel Garcia Marquez Use Personal Experience to help understand your characters. Historical Inspiration Allow Characters to surprise Additional Suggestions on creating characters Exercise
How does this character you have developed differ from the actual real-life person?
What clues have you left yourself to take this character sketch even further? Exercise
Think of someone who you only met briefly but who made a strong impression.
Write everything you can about that encounter. Was there a distinct smell, how was the weather, how was the person dressed? What was it about the person that made the discusson so memorable?
Now write about where that person went after your meeting. What did he do, what did he think about, who was the next person he encountered? Really let your imagination go on this. Write as quickly as possible without stopping. Writing Exercise
Write 3 traits your character will have and on the back of the paper write a brief beginning to a story with this as your main characer. Now pass the paper to the person on your right. That person will then erase or cross out one trait and add 2 new ones. They will then continue on with the story.
Continue process until everyone at your table has added to the story and the origional writer has their own story back.
They will write an ending to the story. Location, Location, Location!!! Depicting Characters through Place Short Story Rubric Discovering your place
Charles Dickens is synonomous with London
Steven King sets many of his stories in small town Main Interior vs Exterior Location
Beginning writers usually do better with interior
They have a better understanding of interior Examples
The Glass Menagerie
Mostly indoors but glimpses of the dark urban setting.
Tom escapes to the fire escape to smoke but we know that the fire escape isn't really an escape Exterior
"the things we own can own us in return"
Norman Mclean's A River Runs Through It.
The river is running through the two brothers just as it runs through the valley
The relationship begining writers have with exterior is less sharply defined and thus easier to be ignored by beginning writers.
Not Knowing the Location
Kafka's The Penal Colony, Where is it
New York Editor's recomendations of books to read.
Reader needs to feel oriented Describe Selectively
be careful not to over-describe or you may end up with a touristy feel.
Have a clear vision
knowing the location will help bring life to dialogue and help to flesh out a vague scene. Exercise:
Write a first person narrative in which you develop another character by describing that characters house, or bedroom, or their locker. Use anything that belongs to that character to describe them. Do not allow the second character to actually come into the narrative. Exercise;
Describe a landscape (this can be urban, rural, suburban) in a way that will help to explain why the people there act in a certain way.
Example a closed down huge empty auto-factory in Detroit may explain why many people are milling about a parking lot outside of a 7/11 Outlines Firsts
Describe a “first”
first apartment
first kiss
first time driving a car
first lie
first roller coaster ride
first time in this setting
Include as many details as possible, being sure to include an aspect relating to each of the five senses. How well I remember the forlorn aspect of Fleet Street when I came out of the Temple! The street-lamps flickering in the gusty north-east wind, as if the very gas were contorted with cold; the white-topped houses; the bleak, star-lighted sky; the market people and other early stragglers, trotting to circulate their almost frozen blood; the hospitable light and warmth of the few coffee-shops and public-houses that were open for such customers; the hard, dry, frosty rime with which the air was charged (the wind had already beaten it into every crevice), and which lashed my face like a steel whip.
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