I’ve had the good fortune to find Susan May Warren’s “My Book Therapy” website a few years ago. It makes sense to me. Susan makes sense to me (and I LOVE her writing, she pulls you in and putting one of her books down is . . . hard. So I lose sleep when I read her novels!). At the 2009 ACFW conference, I was able to take a two day course from Susan and Rachel. That room was PACKED. The participants knew they wanted to learn writing tips from Susan and Rachel Hauck (did I mention Rachel is great with characterization? Pick up Love Starts with Elle and you’ll see what I mean.). Well, today I’ll share a few of the tips I learned from them.
Identity – If you think your characters all sound the same, have a one word identity for your character – an iconic figure. A metaphor speaks loudly to a person. Make sure you know each characters identity AND two reasons why they think that about themselves. If you can’t come up with the identity, go deeper – keep asking WHY until you have the answers!
The LIE they believe – We all walk around with lies in our head. This gives your character back-story and depth. It gives them a starting place on their spiritual and emotional journey. You need to build your story around this lie! This lie determines their behavior. How to figure out the lie? What is the one thing in the past that your character believes and how did they react to that? What did they learn from it? And what lie do they believe because of it?
Greatest dream – Their goal. Sometimes it changes as the book progresses. Dream stays the same, goal sometimes changes. Without a goal there is no destination in place. Sometimes you can look at the happiest moment and build that into the story. Measurable, tangible, specific, realistic. Each step leads to her goal in the story and you need to thwart that goal for her. Don’t let her be aimless. Extrapolate a goal. Rachel gave an example of someone whose greatest dream is to become a singer, yet her biggest fear is being in front of a group of people – great example!
Greatest fear – it might not be a repeat of the darkest event of their lives, sometimes it is. Make their greatest fear happen. Tough love. This is specific to each character and makes all your characters different. The journey is to draw them to their greatest fear. Step by step plan to bring them to this place. To figure this out. What is the biggest thing in their past, what is their lie and what is their greatest fear related to this event? It MUST be specific. So, whatever their greatest fear is, let the reader know it during the course of the book and then MAKE IT HAPPEN to your character!
Man, this stuff is good isn’t it? Check out the book therapy website for more information. Susan and Rachel also have a workbook with all these details plus more. Susan and Rachel have offered to blog a post on my site so stay tuned. They’ll each be here one Wednesday in the new year! Thanks again to Susan May Warren for allowing me to publish a few of her tips!
Filed under: Writing Tip on December 2nd, 2009