Thursday, March 28, 2019

FOUR KEYS TO DYNAMIC CHARACTERS by Lisa Phillips

Hello! I’m so happy to be here, and glad to be a guest today. Recently I’ve been doing workshops in my 6th grader’s English class, and one of the topics I spoke on was: Characters.

This caused me to dig deep. To look at how I craft characters, and how I show their arc through the character.

Characters should NEVER be the same at the end of the book as they were at the beginning.

Here are 4 keys I came up with to crafting dynamic characters:

1. PERSONALITY

Start with an established archetype: the guardian type as a police officer, the nurturer type as a nurse or teacher. Now blend that archetype with a unique character: the police officer who is a gossip, a mom character who is a thrill seeker.

Your readers will see themselves in your characters. They’ll see their flaws. The things they want to do, or how they wish they could have reacted in a situation. Get creative with who your characters are at their core.

2. GOALS

What does your character want? Dynamic characters have goals. There is something they want more than anything. To get into college, or to get their coworker fired. Maybe they’d like their child to survive middle school (yes, please) or they want to get the one ring to Mordor. Even at the outset of Lord of the Rings, before he even found the ring, Frodo’s desire was to have more adventure in his life than just living in Hobbiton.

Your readers have wants, and goals. So give your characters the same. A yearning for peace. A way to make their marriage better.

However, underneath that there is something your character needs to LEARN in order to obtain this goal.

Which takes us to…
3. a LIE or WOUND

The Lie. Your character believes a lie about himself, or the world he inhabits. Your character suffered a wound in his past that taught him something. Unfortunately, what it taught him is wrong.

Only through this process of learning what he needs to know in order to reach his goal will your character realize what he believes—and that it’s wrong.

Take our thrill seeking mom. She believes, because of the trauma of losing her own mom as a child, that life must be sucked dry. Lived to the fullest. And so she goes after all the skydiving, bungee jumping and free climbing she can. What she wants (her goal) is to build a better relationship with her teen daughter. So she suggests a skydiving date. Well, the teen is afraid of heights.

Can you see the conflict building?

Our thrill seeking mom needs to learn that life can be full, but also quiet. And safe.

It’s not about one thing belief being wrong and the other right, necessarily. There’s nothing wrong with thrill seeking. There’s also nothing wrong with life being quiet. What it’s about for the story are those preconceived things we believe, that hold us back.

And we ALL have them. 
4. A DESTINATION

Every character needs a destination. Is this the place where they achieve their goal? Maybe. Sometimes they get what they want, and sometimes they don’t. It’s about what’s right for them to break the chains of what has held them back their whole life.

And so your character will arrive at a new place in their life by the end of the book—physically, metaphorically, or spiritually. Maybe one, maybe all three. They have learned the great truth that they needed to know. They have overcome the past, and those chains have been broken. Susan May Warren, whose writing advice can be found HERE, calls this the “new man.” The person they were always supposed to be.
A great example of this is THOR. At the beginning of Thor’s first movie, he’s a hotheaded prince who thinks he’s ready to be king. He’s all about fighting and conquering in the name of his people.

By the time he gets to Avengers: Infinity War, Thor is scarred. He’s gotten a serious haircut, lost an eye and now he is the Asgardian king. The thing he always wanted. But it was a hard-won battle that changed him. He’s humble now. He cares about people. And he’s willing to give his life to save others. 

What examples of great dynamic characters from books or movies can you think of? I’d love to hear your favorites.

Characters should NEVER be the same at the end of the book. 4 keys to crafting dynamic characters from Lisa Phillips on #SeriouslyWrite #Writetip





A British ex-pat who grew up an hour outside of London, Lisa attended Calvary Chapel Bible College where she met her husband. He’s from California, but nobody's perfect. It wasn’t until her Bible College graduation that she figured out she was a writer (someone told her). Since then she’s discovered a penchant for high-stakes stories of mayhem and disaster where you can find made-for-each-other love that always ends in happily ever after.

Find out more at authorlisaphillips.com



LISA’S LATEST RELEASE

His brother was the intended victim…

Now someone’s after him in this Secret Service Agents story
After a man is killed while carrying his brother’s navy ID, Secret Service agent Declan Stringer is determined to figure out why—even if it turns a killer’s sights on him. But first he must convince NCIS agent Portia Finch to partner with him on the case. As attraction sparks between them, Portia knows she’s on dangerous ground…because Declan is hiding deadly secrets.

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5 comments:

  1. I ACCIDENTALLY DELETED SHAREE STOVER'S COMMENT!

    Hi Lisa, this is great advice! I'm thinking about Forrest Gump and it's almost an opposite effect because he changed so many people around him. What a fantastic character!

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  2. This is a great reminder for all us in how to create those characters that readers will love. Thanks, Lisa!

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  3. Lisa, thank you for these good steps to use when checking or planning the development of my characters.

    "Characters should NEVER be the same at the end of the book as they were at the beginning." Though I know this point, I like how succinctly you state this. Your sentence needs to go on a card to keep in front of me when writing. All my words should lead to this transformation. Thanks!

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  4. Thanks for such a great post, Lisa. Number 3, the "lie or wound" was especially interesting. I need to work on that. I'm too easy on my characters at times. Congratulations on your latest book! Murder Mix-Up looks so interesting!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Lisa, first let me say thank you for visiting Seriously Write. This is a great post. I'm with Sherida, I'm too easy on my characters at times. I've got to learn to make them suffer. lol

    And thank you for the reminder that they have to have grown throughout the course of the book.

    ReplyDelete

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