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 February, 2006


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Lifecycle of a Character:


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. 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.

(c) copyright 2002 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved, except for those listed here. November 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

Critiquing Special

  • Limited time special, one cent per word.  Just mention Publishing New Writers  Newsletter (February, 2006).

    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.)








by Bruce L. Cook

In writing fiction, I usually get my action together, clear my schedule (if possible) and write up a storm. Reminiscent of an accomplished musician, my fingers fly on the keys like butterflies on the run. In doing to, these unruly digits create a monstrosity of misspellings and misplaced grammar, but I tell myself “I . just . have .  to .  get .  this  . all  . down!”

This is fine, providing that I take the time to revise, proofread carefully, and rewrite several times. Now some writers feel this rush to write is self-authenticating – the words are from above and must never be tampered with, but this is misguided.

Nonetheless,  rush-writing can hinder the delicate balance between action and meaning.

For example, in rush-writing I may write the following:

“Billy Wilson hurled the rock at the widow, but turned to run when old Macomber appeared in the opening.

Now, this writing is acceptable, and could lead the reader into completing the story. But think of the opportunities the writer has missed just in this short passage.

For example, let’s take a look at the boy, Wilson, in the revision below.

“Enraged at Macomber for refusing to answer the door, the usual redness in Billy Wilson’s face deepened and he pressed the tiny oval of his lips together as he searched the ground for a rock. Finding one, he flung it at the window where Macomber would be seated.”

Already the scene has moved from action to meaning, at least when it comes to description. But now try the same scene with meaning – whatever it is that you wanted to say, whatever you wanted to leave for future generations to read.

“Enraged at Macomber for refusing to answer the door, the usual redness in Billy Wilson’s face deepened and he pressed the tiny oval of his lips together. He could see it now, his father’s disapproval when he returned from making collections on his paper route. Again he would be told how he was giving away money when he delivered the paper to people like Macomber. It wasn’t fair, with the giant newspaper making young boys do its dirty work. But he, and only he, could make this collection from the old man. He had tried for weeks and it was impossible, so he decided to take action.

“Wilson searched the ground for a rock. Finding one, he flung it at the window where Macomber would be seated, was always seated when Wilson came to collect.

“Immediately Macomber appeared, his face drawn from weeks with only the barest of sustenance. The delicate web of his ivory face turned to an ugly mask as the realization set in. He would have to pay more to repair this window than it would have cost to pay the boy’s bill. But he could afford neither, and again he would have to go days without food.”

I submit that the writer’s genius is to select the depth of description and comment in a scene of this kind. But, above all we need to avoid the rush to write when it forces us to write a shallow account.

I offer two solutions, and beg you to choose what’s best for you.

  1. Write in deep thoughtfulness on the first time through the scene.

  2. Do rush-writing, and then come back to plug in descriptions and content.

Option 1 suggests a fusion between action and meaning. But option 2 might help you achieve better continuity in action.

It’s like viewing a book’s design vs. reading a book’s content. Both are essential to success, but they are viewed and considered separately. Now, in the writer’s struggle between action and meaning, perhaps the same is true. Think of action. Think of meaning. But don’t neglect one or the other.









On not Selling your Box of Books


by Bruce L. Cook

Undeniably, we writers are fellow-crafters, like skilled artisans selling art objects at a marketplace or craft show. And, like these artisans, we gather together and share our dreams, experiences, and frustrations.

Inevitably, in these years since the “vanity press” went the way of the dinosaurs, being replaced by more respectable self-publishing, writers meet and share stories of books they cannot sell unless they go out and do personal appearances in their local area.

Too often, these writers are selling books to Mom and Pop, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and close friends at work. And, while they dreamed of Borders, Barnes and Noble, and other giant stores, their works have never graced the doorways there.

One outcome of this problem might be the fatalistic notion of writer failure. But this is not advisable. Instead, many writers realize the web offers many writers websites of different kinds, and they publish there. This, I believe is the correct response and one which will permit the writer to eventually achieve his or her goals of greatness, or at least the goal of becoming read by a fair-sized audience. (And, for most of us, this is all we wanted anyway.)

But I’d like to add one more note to the chord – the thought that your writing in a small book should be something to which you can point with pride. Thus, even though you have a favorite manuscript and a salesman offered you a cheap print run, make it a point to hesitate. During the delay that you deliberately create, take time to examine the contract sent you by he printer (calling itself a publisher). Second, take time to make our manuscript worth the expense.

Thus your goals become two: getting a fair deal (for example, not paying US $2,500 – $8,000 for a book run just because you are in some part of Africa, compared with the $500 – plus it might cost in a more competitive market), and leaving a worthwhile piece of literature for the future.

For example, I think of the small presses of New Mexico, where refurbished printing presses from the past are combined with local writing to create new books as an art form, in print runs of no more than150 books. We who use self publishing can do the same, knowing that 150 is probably high. But if we can control the print quality and cover art, and write the best we have too offer, our product will achieve its own success. We can sell it in small quantities (what is it they say – “one book at a time”?), and take pride in our product.

The point is to ignore the grand showcase of selling a blockbuster novel (not that we would ever refuse). But rather to have a mature view and to prepare small print run books as a contribution to our own unique art form, and to know we have achieved our true goals.

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Publishing New Writers,

February, 2006 (no. 702)


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

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