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 April, 2003

Lifecycle of a Character: Birth

by Sandy Tritt


            Birth is when we pick up that limp character that we assigned physical attributes to, hold him in our arms, and breathe the breath of life into him from our very own souls. It is also the turning point—his actual birth—and we cease having absolute control over him.

            The first breath of life is when our character has a goal or “character statement.” This is what our character “wants,” and before our character has a want, he is nothing more than a description. The process of “wanting” is what gives life. So, what, more than anything else in the world, does this character want?

            Some examples from my characters are:

·        To become wealthy so the love of my life will return my love.

·        To have fun.

·        To be the best teacher I can possibly be and to give my students the desire to continue their education.

·        To keep my family together.

·        To break into the Rock ‘n Roll charts and become a rock star.

·        To know and do God’s will.

As you can see, a character’s goal can be as deep or as vapid as the individual. Note that for some characters, this statement may be a life goal, but for others it may change as the character matures. Regardless, this is what motivates our character and we must understand this motivation if we are to continue to add depth to his personality. Every major character should have a character statement. 

Now, if our characters achieved their goals immediately and without effort, we wouldn’t have much of a story. So, we must throw obstacles at them. Someone or something must be at work trying to prevent our character from his dream. This is called the character conflict, and it can be external (another character, an act or condition of nature, an act or condition of circumstance, or a physical problem or condition) or it can be internal (an emotional or psychological problem or condition). Many times, our character must resolve an internal conflict in order to defeat his external conflict.

For example, Joe wants to marry Janet, his life-long love. His external conflict is that Janet doesn’t respect him. His internal conflict is that he has an explosive temper. In order to earn Janet’s respect, he must learn to control his temper.

Not every character must have a conflict. However, our protagonist (our main character) must have a conflict in order to have a plot. 

Which brings us to the resolution. Will our protagonist achieve his goal? If not, why not? While it is generally assumed that the achievement of the goal translates into a successful resolution, it is not the only successful resolution. Perhaps in the process of achieving his goal, our character grows beyond it. Perhaps as he learns more about what he must give up, he realizes it isn’t worth it. Or he realizes that he doesn’t want what he thought he did. So, the resolution can be many things, as long as the reader understands why.

The resolution should also make obvious how the protagonist has changed during the process of the story. In a character-driven novel, it is imperative that our protagonist change in some way. In a plot-driven novel, it is still preferable that our protagonist learns something or grows in some way.  

A reproducible Character Growth Chart is provided in Section 8 (in Sandy's book, below). It covers the character statement, the character conflict, the resolution, and the character growth. Space is also provided for comments.

So, let your characters have dreams. Let them want, let them strive, let them achieve. But most of all, let them grow.

(from Section 3, Workbook)

Want more great tips and techniques? Our Inspiration for Writers Tips and Techniques Workbook is now available. Expanded tips, more topics, reproducible worksheets, exercises to practice what you learn and much more--check it out! Free shipping anywhere in the United States.

(c) copyright 2002 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved, except for those listed here. April be reproduced for educational purposes (such as for writer's workshops), as long as this copyright notice and the url: http://tritt.wirefire.com are distributed with the pages. For use in conferences or other uses not mentioned here, please contact Sandy Tritt at tritt@wvadventures.net for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.

   Keep writing!

Sandy Tritt

Inspiration for Writers tritt@wvadventures.net

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This is Dianne Ochiltree's site for children, parents, teachers and writers for young readers. Dianne is an author of books for young readers (birth to teenage)

and she is also a children's book reviewer. She's been writing professionally for over 25 years---about 18 years in public relations/advertising/marketing and the last 7 years as a children's writer. Dianne has two books published to date, with Scholastic and with Simon & Schuster.

http://tritt.wirefire.com The Inspiration for Writers website offers help and encouragement to writers of all levels. Tips and Techniques give practical advice about frequent writing blunders. The Writer's Prayer, inspirational quotes, and essays about the writing life add insight and inspiration. The Fiction Showcase offers short stories for the reader's enjoyment. And, for those serious about improving their writing skills, manuscript critiques and coaching services are available. Visit http://tritt.wirefire.com today!


Critiquing Special

  • Limited time special, one cent per word.  Just mention Publishing New Writers  Newsletter (April, 2003).

    Critiques by Sandy Tritt

  • Unlike most editors, I consider my role to be a mentor or a coach. Instead of just telling you what is wrong, I explain how to correct the problem, and I work with you to teach you how to write effective prose. More than 50% of my business is repeat business, and I relish establishing long-term relationships with other writers.

  • Treat you with respect and compassion. All criticism will be of the "constructive" sort. My purpose is to improve your writing, not to destroy your confidence.

  • Mark your manuscript, correcting grammatical and spelling errors and suggesting alternative wording where appropriate, line-by-line.

  • Highlight areas that are especially well-written, so you will know where your strengths are.

  • Where appropriate, offer suggestions for plot development, character development or other areas that could be strengthened.

  • Return a two-to-four page written analysis of your work. This will include evaluation of: plot, setting, characterization, dialogue, special effects (flash forwards, flashbacks, etc.), voice, point of view and any other areas particular to your work.

  • If appropriate, recommend reading or resources to strengthen your areas of weakness.

  • Answer any questions you  have via email.

  • Provide my telephone number for a personal follow-up, if you desire.

For Sandy's success stories, see http://tritt.wirefire.com/Manuscript_Critique.html

Write Sandy at tritt@wvadventures.net

(See Sandy's article above.)























Give an Author Helpful Comments

by Bruce Cook

Helpful Comments for Authors

New authors crave feedback on their work. Sometimes they are thin-skinned, and react defensively. Usually, however,  they know there’s a need for criticism. But what can the reader do to help?

When you give an author your comments, do you simply say, “Best in the world. Great job!” If you do, stop to think.. Are you doing anybody any favors that way? On the other hand, you shouldn’t be hypercritical, especially with a newbie.

The rule is – if there is a rule – heap on the praise first. Then point out the exceptions.

Writers’ websites usually include systems for feedback, and AuthorMe is no exception. We have experimented with the proverbial “click to contact author” line, but have seen disappointing levels of response. We put our readers on a guilt trip, saying “ if you read, please make comments.”  Then we tried various forms of critique exchange – one author’s comment in exchange  for another’s – a discussion board. We even developed a sophisticated readership survey instrument. Now we are developing the kind of system Amazon.com provides for books.

However.  the question remains: “If I comment, what should I say? If I enjoyed the story, and want to tell the author, that’s fine. But what could I do to help him or her improve their work?”

First, start with the good things. Tell the author what he or she is doing right.

Next, choose from several options.(A few of these terms are from the philosophy of aesthetics, so they may seem to mean something else.)

1.        Take a subjective approach. Comment on how well the piece does (or does not) accurately reflect what it purports to reflect. For example, a historical novel should accurately reflect its time period and characters; a story set in New York should truly reflect New York. (You might think the creators of legends and fairy tales would get off scot  free – but no, once they create setting and time and characters, they must remain true to those things just like anyone else. Consistency – the hobgoblin of perplexity.)

2.        Take an objective approach. Examine the work as a work in itself. In isolation from the world. Does it have unity, balance, and contrast? What about pace, language, tone? Does it resonate with you? (And don’t think this doesn’t matter!)

3.        Comment on the story’s message. Is its message plausible or flawed? Was it written to prove a point? Was it intended for the author’s peer group, or for the readers? (Ahem – if you have to write a book just  to impress your peers, isn’t there something else you rather be doing? Trust me on this. A successful book is written for its readers. Not for the author’s peer group.)

4.        Ask whether you care about the characters. Are they real? For example, does a sweet, innocent character do something terrible? Does a really terrible character behave admirably? Do the characters stay in character throughout the story? Do they all sound the same?

5.        Does the writer show respect for the language (and grammar) of the times?

6.        How is the opening, the conclusion, and the plot?

7.        What can the author do to improve the work?

These are but a few options. Please print them out and store them in your shirt pocket. Next time an author asks for some feedback, you’ll be ready to make a useful answer.

Read...   Move Over Maharishi

By Dee Landerman

An ordinary housewife is catapulted into the unknown. For over twenty-five years with one foot in the other dimension, experiences visions, apparitions, and visits from the divine. As a Christian Intuitive with the ability to see into a person’s spirit, she experienced first hand where the departed go.

She shares her life openly with you, with the intent to give answers and direction for you to find power, peace and acceptance in your own life. Dee reveals the ‘Heart Of God’ about organized religion and today’s churches, sharing God’s concerns and desires for America and the world.

Click here for more info...


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Publishing New Writers,

April, 2003 (no. 404)

Publisher Bruce L. Cook, P.O. Box 451, Dundee, IL 60118.  Fax (847) 428-8974.

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Writer's Block


by Kenneth Mulholland (Australian Editor, AuthorMe)



'What is it Robby? Report robot!'



'Oh no! We're all doomed!'

Ah yes, Robert Bloch, Colier Young, author of the now famed 'Psyhco.'

He was...just a second.


That should be 'WRITERS BLOCK!'

Well, sometimes, working into the wee small hours, a cigarette dangling from my lips, an empty bottle beside a half empty whiskey glass, an ashtray full of butts, I...well, you know, smoke gets in your eyes.

But since it's only five thirty in the afternoon and I've just finished putting in the new fish pond on a very warm and sunny day, I guess those tired old lines wont cut the mustard.

So, instead, let's talk about The Creatures From The Id.

Now the word Id has a few meanings, but the one to which I refer is mentioned in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary as: 'The inherited instinctive impulses of the individual, forming an unconscious part of the mind.'

And, if you were Walter Pidgeon in the 1956 sci-fi epic 'FORBIDDEN PLANET' (Crediting Allen Adler and Irving BLOCK for the basis of Cyril Hume's script) you would indeed have pause for extreme caution when a deranged, loose-cannon robot informs you that 'The Creatures Of The Id' are coming!'

What has this got to do with WRITER'S BLOCK?

Only this.

Robby the Robot was right.

The Creature's From The Id are there, and they always will be.

And They reside in the mind of every human being that has ever walked, or will ever walk, planet earth.

They belong to all of us.

They are always different, and always the same.

They cannot be entirely defeated.

They will never go away.

And yet...and yet, They can be overcome.

Subdued, if you like.


Because They are a part of us.

And They are a part of Writer's Block.

So much a part that we fail to see these creatures for what they are.

They are our own minds in limbo, drifting, disconnected. Behaving in such a way as to convince us that we are not in control, that we have not the ability to gain that control over the conscious part of us.

That the subconscious wins, and in winning, leaves human beings bereft and adrift, with no way of reviving the conscious will of exploration, discovery and triumph.

So much mumbo-jumbo? Maybe.

But if you are a writer, (Remember, a writer is one who writes. Don't have to be published and successful, just writes.) then you will have to learn this lesson.


Never allow the dreaded 'Creatures From The Id' to invade your mind to the point of 'Writer's Block'.

Write, if you will, 'What I did on my holidays', or better still, 'What you did on your holidays'.

Write about your dog, about the postman whose leg your dog is hanging off, about the letter he (not the dog-the damned postman) is striving to deliver. What could that letter contain?

What could the dog contain? Well, a bit of uniform and a skin sample at least.

And what about the mailbox?

Just a box for receiving mail?

Hell! Who knows where the timber for that thing came from?

And who knows where the postman, the dog, the letter and the mailbox are going?



Writer's block.





Oh, that reminds me. I also wanted to make a comment about 'when aren't you writing?'

You know, I figure that...consarn it!

Outta time agin!

Ken Mulholland

Country Editor - Australia

AuthorMe.com Group











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