Monday, January 24, 2011

Personality facets

Real quick, today's the last day to enter the writing prompt contest. (Click here if you're not sure what I'm talking about.) When you send me your 100 words, I always send you an e-mail letting you know I received your entry. If you've submitted to me but haven't received one of those e-mails, let me know.

I'm telling you guys, I have no idea how the judges are going to pick just three. The entries have been awesome. There was even a whole group of sisters who entered, which just thrilled me! Jordan Newhouse and her younger sisters, Moriah and Bethany. I love it.

Still a few more hours to get your entry in too.

Down to business.

In regards to our main characters, we've talked about how they need to change and how we need to unearth their extraordinary qualities. Something else we need to do is show their inner conflict. And I'm not talking about their conflict in regards to what's going on all around them, I mean those facets of their personality that sometimes run contradictory.

Like does your character embrace life with gusto? Does she leap into everything with enthusiasm? Well, find something she maybe isn't so enthusiastic about. Like that interpretive dance class she's being forced to take. Or the job where she gets paid minimum wage to scrub Backstreet Boys stickers off toilets. (Yes. I've had that job. It included delivering cheeseburgers to people's cars. The BSB sticker-scrubbing was just a perk.)

Maybe your character has a smart remark for everything. Put him in a situation that ties his tongue.

Or maybe a career woman who loves to go-go-go all the time ... but savors the time she gets to spend rocking her baby to sleep at night. Or atightwad who has a soft spot for the homeless guy who begs on his street corner.

Because we all have our inconsistencies, don't we? Make sure your main character does too. It makes them real.

What works best is if it's part of their story. Let's go with that last example for a second, the tightwad. Maybe he's a tightwad because he grew up in a family with an iffy housing situation. Maybe the guy on the corner kinda looks like his deadbeat dad, and he gives money to this guy because he thinks about that man's children.

Or maybe that career woman was raised by a mom who never wanted kids, and so even though her own children were a surprise, she's careful to never make them feel unwanted the way she did as a child.

It's amazing what kind of subplots this exercise can build. Have fun with it!


  1. Love your advice! & I really love when you give me a idea exercise to try as well as being able to see when I'm making good decisions in writing :)

    I hope this is ok, Stephanie, I found this website I think your readers might like. It's
    Camy Tang talks about writing and offers worksheets for plotting & characterization

  2. Thank you for posting that, Tonya! I haven't had a chance to check it out yet, but I know Camy and she's a great lady to learn from!

  3. I love creating things like that inside my characters =) It honestly helps me a lot sometimes personally, because a lot of the time I relate some of their problems to my own.
    Like having a dad who I butt heads with a lot but I still love him, even though we butt heads lol.
    Or feeling like I don't have any friends or something...
    Problems like that.
    Conflict helps you deal with your own problems and creating some things you haven't dealt with are fun to =)

  4. Jazmine, I often find myself learning right along with my characters too :)