Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Review of Characterization

I had the program at our local RWA meeting this past Saturday. The topic was characterization. After my research, a light popped on in my head and the reason for the difficulties I've experienced with my writing lately was identified. My books have all been character driven, but I've been trying to write plot driven stories. I've struggled at getting the stories on paper.

To the right is the cover of Investment of the Heart. The character of Hallie Barron propelled the story forward for me. Though I had a plot idea, many of the plot events evolved as the story progressed. I enjoyed writing this story and didn't struggle for the words to come.

Before I share what I learned, I'd like to list my references.
Wikipedia, Karen Bernado, Karen Cioffi, Book Rags, and Kim Kay.

In the best stories, it is characterization that moves the story along. A compelling character in a difficult situation creates his or her own plot. Plot driven literature uses easily identifiable archetypes rather than proper character development. Stories and plays focusing on characters became more common as part of the 19th Century Romantic Movement and supplanted plot-driven literature.

Examples of character driven stores - War and Peace and David Copperfield.

Character driven literature focuses not on events but on individual personalities. In a tragedy, the main character retains his/her character flaw, whereas in a comedy, the character under goes an epiphany and change occurs.

In direct or explicit characterization, the author tells us what the character looks like, etc. via a narrator, another character or the character himself.

In indirect or implicit characterization, the audience must decide for themselves what the character is like through the character's thoughts, actions, thoughts of others, dialogue, interaction with others which includes the characters' reactions.

Though characterization moves the story forward, a good story must have a strong plot. Science fiction and fantasy writer L. E. Modesitt, Jr. says, "The best fiction should be an intertwined blend of character, plot, setting, and style."

Plot, characters, setting, and style should complement and move each other forward to a satisfying conclusion and should draw the reader in.

This project  clarified for me and better defined the role of the pantser and plotter. The pantser begins with a strong character sketch and some idea of where the story is going (plot). The plotter begins with a complete outline of their plot and builds their characters around the plot.

What about you? How do you begin your stories - character sketches, plot outline, or both?

Thanks for reading and writing!



Tanya Hanson said...

Hi Linda, I think characters. I gotta know who they are before I know what they will do.

GOod post.

Sherry Gloag said...

The characters turn up first. They give me some information and then we start brainstorming. I have to say I'm a pantser first.
Usually be the end of each chapter I know the direction the mext one is going in.

Karen Cioffi said...

Hi, Linda,

I'm honored to be referenced in you post. And, I think it all depends on the writer and the story as to whether it's plot driven or character driven. But, all elements of the story should complement themselves creating something memorable.

Linda LaRoque said...

Thanks for stopping by Tanya. Knowing who they are is important for me too.

Linda LaRoque said...

Isn't it great, Sherry, when things start falling into place and the next chapter evolves for you?

Linda LaRoque said...

Hi Karen. Thank you for stopping by and clarifying points for us. Your article was very informative.