Bringing Fictional Characters to Life

One of the presentations at the PSWA conference was on characterization and given by author Michael A. Black. Here are some of the notes I took:

Who are your characters? Do you have a picture of each one? (Some cut pics out of magazines for their characters.) It's important to have a good description and you need to know what each one is like.

Give the physical characteristics early on, before the reader has a chance to form his own mental picture that might be totally different from yours.

You should have a back story for each character--a character sketch. Things like: Name, where he grew up, what was his home like, who were his family members, who is still living and he interacts with, what kind of work does he do? Hobbies? Etc.

Always a good idea to keep a list of characters' names so you don't repeat.

Maintain a character bible including minor characters.

Important to know the motivations of each character: greed, anger, jealousy, revenge, pride, to cover another crime, etc.

And he emphasized the following:

Show, don't tell

And choose the POV character from whom the story will come.

Mike did a wonderful job!

The whole PSWA conference was fantastic. If you've never gone you're missing out. Next year it will be from July 12-15 at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas.

If you haven't already, be sure and take a look at my latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel, Angel Lost, which I dedicated to Keith Bettinger, one of the members of PSWA. It's available on Kindle and a trade paperback from Amazon and can be ordered from any independent bookstore.


Liss said…
I typically have a picture of my characters - at least the major ones. I tend to 'cast' my characters. The one exception that I fight is if I write first person (which I am) I have a hard time seeing them.

Micheal's talk on characterization was wonderful
Hi, Liss, for first person, get right inside that person and look in the mirror. Don't have the person describe themselves that way though, do it subtly through what the do or put on to wear, if short wearing high heels to appear taller, if tall, looking straight into the eyes of a tall man, walking out into the fog and having long hair go curly, that sort of thing.

Mary Martinez said…
Thanks for the comments.

I'm trying to write first person right now myself. It's a very big challenge.

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