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 March, 2006


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Lifecycle of a Character: Adolescence

by Sandy Tritt


 Adolescence is when our character begins to show his psychological profile. And we want him to be multi-dimensional. He will have certain personality components that he will show most of the time, and others that he will show only in the presence of certain people or in specific situations. In other words, the personality his brother sees may not be the same personality his boss sees—or the one his girlfriend sees. For characters to feel real, they must be inconsistent—in a consistent way.

First, make sure you understand fully your character’s main personality—the personality he has when he is alone or when he is with the people he is most comfortable with. Use the Personality Component Worksheet in Section 8 to highlight in yellow the three to six adjectives that most strongly describe your character on a normal basis. Then highlight in blue those adjectives that also describe him on a normal basis, but that are not as predominant. Then try your character out in different situations and in the presence of different people. When does he behave differently? When he is tired? When his mother is present? When he wants to impress a girl? After a few belts of whiskey? When he is angry? Assign a highlighter color to these situations and highlight the adjectives that best describe your character in these special situations.

Sometimes it is hard to “flesh” out a character in this manner. If you are having difficulty, it is time to cheat. I use a good book of the Zodiac that includes both sun and moon signs as a “cheap” way to add dimension to a character. Following are the supposed characteristics of people born between certain dates. Notice that I only chose the three or four adjectives that were the strongest for the sign. Within a book of the Zodiac, you will find many more characteristics, including a breakdown of how he behaves in romance, in the office, and at play.


ARIES (March 21-April 20) – Straightforward, energetic, impulsive, positive

TAURUS (April 21-May 21) – Tenacious, stubborn, moody, patient

GEMINI (May 22-June 21) – Inquisitive, kind, adventurous, considerate

CANCER (June 22-July 22) – Sensitive, emotional, warm, empathetic

LEO (July 23-August 23) – Proud, generous, sweet, positive

VIRGO (August 24-September 23) – Insightful, sensible, sociable, patient

LIBRA (September 24-October 23) – Indecisive, charming, just, logical

SCORPIO (October 24-November 22) – Honest, sensual, revengeful, jealous

SAGITTARIUS (November 23-December 21) – Spiritual, sensitive, happy, outspoken

CAPRICORN (December 22-January 20) – Responsible, composed, strong, emotionally repressed

AQUARIUS (January 21-February 19) – Pompous, generous, knowledgeable, helpful

PISCES (February 20-March 20) – Sympathetic, imaginative, creative, sensitive


Another element of personality that seems to have scientific merit is birth order. Many psychologists believe that a person’s position in his birth family affects his personality. The oldest child typically receives the most parental attention, the youngest is usually coddled more, and the middle child can get lost in the shuffle. Here are the traits that psychologists assign to birth order:

FIRST BORN – Responsible, high achiever, disciplined, likes to be in charge, protective

MIDDLE CHILD – Social, popular, meditative, avoids conflict, generous, competitive

YOUNGEST CHILD – Lighthearted, charming, dependent, creative, manipulative

ONLY CHILD – High self-esteem, perfectionist, imaginative, selfish, high achiever

TWINS – Dependent (especially on each other), competitive, secretive

NOTE: There can be more than one “first born” per family. The oldest child of each sex often inherits the characteristics of a first born; also, a child born five or more years after the previous child will behave more like an oldest or only child, and birth order begins again. For example, if a family consists of children ages 1, 3, 11, 12, 14 and 22, the 3 and 14-year-olds will both exhibit characteristics of a first born, and the 1 and 11-year-olds will exhibit characteristics of the youngest child. The 12-year-old will behave like a middle child, and the 22-year-old will act as an only child. It is also possible to have three (or more) only children in the same family.

We can use these tools—and our overly active imagination—to conjure up a character who is multi-dimensional and who will walk off the pages of our novel and into the hearts of our reader.

(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 (March, 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.)







Review: Poetry Repair Manual

by Bruce L. Cook

Review: Ted Kooser, The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005)

In reviewing this 163-page book, I expected to see poetry with part numbers – something like the Sears Manual to its LP-20 washing machine. Or a taxonomy of rhymes and rhythms. Happily, I was disappointed in both expectations.

The new U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, Ted Kooser dispels the idea of poetry as an elite medium. “A lot of the resistance to poetry can be blamed on poets,” he says, reminding me that a similar sentence could be constructed to blame low opera attendance on Wagner. Now this comparison is probably unfair, but is does have some traction.

But bear with me, if you will. Here’s a better quote: “A poem is the invited guest of its reader.” Now this can become controversial, because there are those that might feel the poet is in charge, regardless. Kooser would rather bring the reader into the equation.

It gets more interesting with this quotation: “Give those titles and openings a cost-benefit analysis: How much do you gain by using the beginning you’ve written, versus how much might it cost you by putting off the reader?” The economics of poetry. But Kooser isn’t all wrong.

Kooser gets into the idea of audience building and making poetry more readily understandable for readers, for example by using contemporary speech. “Don’t Worry about Rules” (the title of Chapter 4) is the order of the day.

Kooser also gives us important warnings, such as the avoidance of self-indulgence and sentimentality, which often forms a barrier between good and bad in this area of expression. (After all, many “Roses are red, violets are blue… “ poets feel that sentimentality and self-indulgence is the stuff of good poetry.)

Here a poet laureate gets down to earth and helps “the rest of us” learn how to apply our imagination in this unique form of expression. “Most of the poets I know are of average intelligence,” he says. “What makes them ‘different’ is that they love playing with language.” We can all be different that way, he seems to be saying, and the poetic profession is closed to none.

I recommend this “Home Repair Manual” for poets and students of poetry. There’s something there for all of us and it’s far better reading than that Sears Manual I was thinking about.









The Truth about Writing Biography and Memoir


by Diane SanFilippo

When I was first asked to write a short piece of writing memoir or biography, I that it a bit strange I would be asked to write something when the only other things I have written were stories based on my life – so far. However, I do have a manuscript, a very long manuscript, so I would suppose I am qualified to tell you what I learned along the way of writing ‘that great American memoir’.

When I first made up my mind to put my writing where my mouth is, and quit talking about what I would do, a very good friend advised me by saying, ‘Diane, just down and write. Start with the first day you met, and take it from there.” I had no idea our brief 4 ½ years were worthy of an entire manuscript, and hopefully a book or a TV miniseries. Ah! I do dream!

So, I followed my friends advice and I began to write, and I wrote and I wrote, and I wrote, for 8 hours straight I told the story of the most remarkable young man I would ever meet, and how he fell in love with me. I wrote about the first date, and I wrote about how we fell so much in love we could not even study… and then I had a dilemma – so I tell the truth now, or would I change our story to a version sanitized of all our human failures. With the idea of our children someday reading my words, and our deeds, I decided to ‘nice’ it over. As I wrote the fiction, I continued to have difficulties making the ends meet, once I told that first ‘lie’, nothing fit, and unknown to me at the time, I learned my first great lesson about how to write memoir.

Now, after all the years of writing, editing, and re-writing, the truth is the truth. It is the shortcut to the final chapters simply because I did not have to go back and see what I had said, and when. I did not have to maneuver script simply write.

Once, when I was a child, my grandmother told me, “Diane, if you tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said.”

Oh how right she was!

My finished manuscript is over 1000 pages, one side, double spaced, but still a huge piece of work, and not one single word is a lie, an embellishment, although I left my heart on every page. However, over time, IF I ever published, I KNOW that no one can say, “It didn’t happen that way.” Perhaps, they will think they remember it differently, but it was my life, I lived it, and I KNOW what happened, what happened, what was said, how, and why.

So, if you want to write memoir, tell the truth from the very beginning, check your resources about memories that might have become fuzzy, and ask others what they remember. I sure had to do that for the funeral because I was not there, rather floating overhead watching this person who was supposed to be me, do and say all the right things. I cannot give any other advice, each of us has to live with what we write and for some, and the truth may be too painful. There were times when I did not think I could finish our story, but I did, and I cried more tears than I have in my lifetime.

If you want to write memoir, tell it like it happened, tears and all, if not, write fiction, usually it makes for a more interesting story. I simply do not know how to write other than my own heartaches.

God Created You: A Guide to Temperament Therapy

New AuthorMe Paperback...   (Released 2005)

By Dr. Rick Martin

From chapter 2... "How a person behaves is a combination of temperament, living in the strengths and/or weaknesses of their temperament environment, decisions they have made or not made, conclusions they have drawn about right and wrong, their relationship with God or the lack thereof..."

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Publishing New Writers,

March, 2006 (no. 703)


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

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