Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

September 16, 2013

A Recipe for Great Characters

Filed under: On Writing — Frank Fiore @ 1:18 PM

It’s getting to be habit with me, discovering how I write from David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants.

I’ve never taken a writing course or took creative writing in college. But I am told by a few publishers that my writing shows a maturity not seen from many writers. In David’s latest kick in the pants, he talks of how to make characters interesting. As I have said before, I learned much about writing fiction by watching movies. I’ve learned that the structure of a story, whether it be a book or movie, follows pretty mush the same pattern.

David talks about three ways to make your character interesting.

1) Give your character a mystery. This might include a hidden agenda, or a secret about his past, or perhaps a secret about himself that even the character doesn’t know. If you do this, then part of the forward movement of your story comes as we, the audience, tries to unravel the mystery.

Now, I’ve done this with my writing even before I’ve seen David’s kick in the pants on this. In the Chronicles of Jeremy Nash – my three part action adventure – i had a couple of characters in each story surprise the reader with a quick a and vivid reversal in behavior based on a secret that he or she held.

2) Give your character a major internal conflict. By that I mean, pick a word that describes your character. For example: He’s compassionate. Then find another word that can also describe your character, but make it a polar opposite—terrorist. Now, look for ways to reveal both sides of you character. For example, your protagonist might be at a French Restaurant. He sees a mother and a baby, and tries desperately to drag them away from the restaurant—just before it blows up. He saves them! But how did he know that the restaurant would explode? Because he set the bomb. Giving a character a dual nature creates an instability, a lack of balance, that probably can’t stay forever.

In CYBERKILL, my first novel I used this example in a character that on the surface looked innocent enough, but then turned out to be responsible for the reason the weapon was activated.

3) Make your character powerful. I talk about your protagonist needing a “secret power,” something which might be as simple as the gift of gab. But villains need it, too, as do contagonists, guides, sidekicks, love interests, and so on.

In MURRAN, my soon to be released mainstream novel, the hero carries with him a talisman given to him by a shaman that he used to escape near the end of the story.

All three of these techniques I have used and learned from watching the movies. They are important for making any character interesting and even surprising.

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