Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Building believable characters

Okay, I know that we all want believable characters. The writer wants to build the characters in our stories in a way that the reader will sympathize, root for and love. As readers we want to sympathize, root for and love the characters in stories ( or hate, if its the villian). But how does the writer build a believable character that will fulfill the expectation of the readers?
Not all characters, no matter how well-portrayed will not resonate with every reader. But as writers we strive to accomplish this feat.
When I first started out writing and attended workshops, I gathered form after form of character building. Which I never did really fill out. Now, I'm not saying that the forms weren't helpful. Reading through them made me aware of the many aspects of building a character. Yes, physical description is important. The characters traits, habits, likes and dislikes are all important. But it wasn't until I was given a book by another writer that I really thought WOW, now this is how you build believable characters.
The book was Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Deb Dixon, romance author.
Awesome book. Awesome concept.
This past Saturday I attended an all day workshop with Deb as the speaker on GMC. I'd never heard her in person give a workshop. I must say it was one of the best I've attended in along time.
Her GMC books is still available.
So if you haven't ever heard of GMC, you're probably wondering what that is.

Goal= there are two types, External is what each character in your story wants to obtain. The goal can change as the story progress but it is what drives the plot. OR Internal is what the character feels she/he needs in order to be happy and this drives the emotional journey.

Motivation = External Motivation is the driving force behind the characters desire to obtain said goal. This can be from the characters backstory, childhood, or more recently and can stem from a catalyst event. The Internal Motivation most often will stem from the characters backstory ranging from childhood to a most recent emotional upset in the characters life.

Conflict= External is the forces that try to prevent the characters from reaching their goal. Internal is a bit more complicated. The conflict will arise out of opposition to the goal.

An example:

My upcoming July 2008 book, Double Jeopardy

The external goal for the heroine is to testify agaisnt a murderer.
The external motivation is she witnessed her bosses murder.
The external conflict is the murderer is trying to kill her before she can testify.

The internal goal for the heroine is to be valued
The internal motivation is she was one of six kids born to neglectful parents.
The conflict is she refuses getting emotionally involved with anyone because she fears rejection

Of course knowing all this must then be translated to the page and sprinkled throughout the story. An easier said than done feat. But it is doable and will enrich your characters and your story. Go get Deb's book. You won't be disappointed.

Happy writing.

1 comment:

Cara Putman said...

One of my crit partners makes me go through a GMC analysis for my main characters. I groan, and then learn a ton when I actually do it. I have the book and need to work my way through it now.