Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cheryl Klein – Dimentions of Character

Cheryl Klein, Senior Editor with Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic imprint) talked about character. Character is important, but must be paired with action.

ESSENCE (who the character is):
1. Facts – age, where they live, gender

2. Internal qualities – personality, ethics, morals, values, degree of self-awareness. A Character can have two internal qualities that conflict with each other.

3. External qualities – factors that show the internal qualities: Appearance, manner of speaking, patterns of behavior.

4. History (backstory). Readers only need to know what’s relevant to plot or to understand the reason behind characters’ actions. It can also be used as emotional context, to make the reader sympathize with the character.

“Let your characters word and actions speak for themselves.”

1. Desire – what the character wants: to get the girl, be the smartest person in the room, etc. Ask yourself: When a character wakes up, what’s the first thing he thinks of.
“The desire often becomes the plot engine of the novel.”

2. Attitude/Energy – content of what character says. Try journaling as the character to see what they say.
“If you wouldn’t want to hang around with a character in person, you wouldn’t want to hang around them in a novel.”

3. Action – what the character does to get what they want.
Desire + Attitude = Action.

Cheryl did an exercise with the audience, building a character using the essence points. She said the more characteristics you add in each category, the more interesting your character will be. Add depth by asking Why to each trait.

Cheryl said both the villain and the main character have motivations.

“Everyone is the hero of his own story.”

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