Monday, April 11, 2011

Character Counts by Denise Hunter

Welcome to Manuscript Monday everyone! Today author Denise Hunter is here to discuss characterization. She reiterates that you won't have a great story without great characterization. I found some helpful gems in her article. Read on!

Character Counts
by Denise Hunter

The longer I write, the more I see that the most critical element in story-telling is character. If the reader doesn’t care about the people who inhabit your story, no amount of intriguing plot, great writing, or creative twists can save your story.

So how do you create characters who jump off the page, who rise above stereotypes and worm their way into your heart? There are probably hundreds of methods, but here’s how I attempt to bring my characters to life.

Give your reader:

1. A Personality -- There are many resources to help develop your characters’ personalities. Online personality tests, character questionnaires, your best friend’s husband *smile*. I like Heroes and Heroines by Cowden, LaFever, and Viders. I often use a blend of a couple archetypes.
* If you’re writing a romance, give your hero and heroine conflicting personalities. Opposites attract, after all, and where there are differences, there will be inherent conflict.
* Give your characters an idiosyncrasy or two. Does she love crossword puzzles, munch on Cheetos all the time, or only use landlines? These seemingly insignificant details go a long way toward making a character real.
* Give your characters consistent behaviors. What does he do when he’s angry? What does she do when she’s nervous? Let us see their behavior and the reader can figure out how they’re feeling.
* Sometimes characters take on their own life as you're writing. Don’t be afraid to let that happen.

2. A Look -- Know what your characters look like. Work these details into your story, but don’t slow the pace with a boring list.
* Find a picture of your character and keep it close by while writing. Use catalogs or internet resources. If you can clearly see your protagonist, your reader will too. Know if she’s tall or wiry or curvy. Redheaded, highlighted, or pony-tailed.

3. A Voice -- How does your character talk?
* What kind of speech pattern does your character have? Long, flowing sentences or short choppy ones? Does she talk in run-on sentences?
* What about words? Does he use big words? Does she use words like “reckon” and “fetch”? She’d better be from the South or cowboy country!
*Give your characters a pet word or two and have them use it several times in your story.

4. A Backstory -- People develop much of who they are by what they’ve experienced. Fears, false beliefs, and desperate hopes almost always come from backstory.
*Give your protagonist a history, but don’t let the reader in on it for at least a few chapters.
* Drop a few hints about what happened in the past to keep the reader curious—this keeps them turning the page.
* A flashback can be a very powerful way to bring your protagonist’s past to life, but don’t drop it in until the reader is dying to know what happened.

There are as many ways to create characters as there are writers to write them. Experiment with methods and always come back to what works for you.


A Cowboy's Touch released April 1, 2011.

Abigail is just in Moose Creek, Montana for the summer to temporarily care for her great aunt. But a tender-hearted cowboy beckons her to stay.

Abigail Jones intends to spend just one summer in middle-of-nowhere Montana with her Aunt Lucy. Time away from her job is just what Abigail needs to reassess her life. The slow pace has her breathing deeply for the first time in years. And the majestic scenery encourages her to get reacquainted with herself . . . and God.

What she didn't count on was the handsome widowed cowboy who owns the ranch where her aunt lives. When the rancher loses his daughter's nanny, Abigail decides to lend a hand for the summer.

Wade Ryan can't help being attracted to Abigail. But he's given up everything to protect his daughter, and he's not about to risk it all on a pretty face.

Under Abigail's care, Wade's home and daughter thrive. And with Wade's touch, Abigail's heart feels at home at last. But Abigail knows this elusive rancher is hiding something. Will her own secrets separate her from the cowboy who finally captured her heart?


To learn more about Denise and her books, visit her website.