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"Great fiction is fueled by bad decisions and human weakness."
— Kristen Lamb 

2. Plot
3. Scenes
4. Beginnings
7. Show and Tell
11. Middles

13. Verbs
14. Rhythm
16. Creativity 
18. Revising

1. Characters

We discuss the importance of characters in stories and how to construct well rounded, relatable characters your readers won't be able to forget.
I. Approaching a story
2. Discovering your characters
3. Protagonist character studies
4. Other characters
5. Practice test
6. Lesson test
7. Discussion: meaning and its significance

1. Approaching a Story

Plot and characters seem to be perpetually pited against each other. Everyone seems to be either pro-plot (those who believe plot is supreme and characters should bow to its will) or pro-character (who regard plot as a tyrant that stifles human nature). Their arguments go something like this:

Plot-centric (Preppies)

Character-centric (Whatevs)

"I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all of our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible."
-Stephen King

​​"Since a novel is a recreation of reality, its theme has to be dramatized, i.e., presented in terms of action….A story in which nothing happens is not a story. A story whose events are haphazard and accidental is either an inept conglomeration or, at best, a chronicle, a memoir, a reportorial recording, not a novel….It is realism that demands a plot structure in a novel."
-Ayn Rand


Preppies are all about planning. They meticulously map out the plot before they start writing their story. Imagine that you have a pet mouse. You decide to build a maze for your mouse with a big block of creamy cheese waiting for him at the end. Knowing that your mouse is addicted to peanuts (which are poisionous), you try to trip him up by constructing a maze with a lot of peanuty deadends. The question becomes: will your mouse learn to put his addiction behind him, or will he be forever stuck, chasing after every last peanut until they inevitably kill him, unable to beat the maze and obtain what he really needs--his freedom, and that glorious big block of cheese? Examples


If you didn't know King's stories, you'd assume they don't have plots based off of what he said above. They do. He just doesn't often consciously plot his stories before he starts writing them--what I like to call a "whatev" (a writer that isn't so focused on the future as they are on the present). Their stories still have a plot; they just let their mouse lay the groundwork for the plot on their own, the writer tweaking and deleting as needed. Examples


There is a third way to write a story. The writers using this method simply have a mouse and don't do anything. Imagine having a pet mouse who you wanted to write a story about. Without a plot, what would your story consist of? He would merely exist in his cage, eating and drinking before extricating it all. He goes to sleep, only to do it all over again the next day. But, although nothing is happening on the outside, perhaps a lot is going on internally. Perhaps he's dreaming of being free (which he has never been free, so maybe his concept of freedom is different from reality), or maybe he's pondering about his human caretakers, how they love him...or, how they loath him. He probably misses his family, he wishes he could be with them. This is all happening within his mind, but on the outside...he's just chewing on some pellets. These stories typically lack beginnings, middles, ends, epiphanys, and profoundness. Examples

Final Thoughts on Approaching Story

Preppies need to be careful not to design their maze too well that it becomes obvious to the reader. Even a meticulous and well-thoughtout plot can become a distraction if it doesn't feel real. Whatevs need to be careful not to let their mouse run too far off course.​​

As with most cases the answer probably doesn't reside in the extremes. In fact, plot and character can't function without each other, much like a plane without a pilot, or a piano without a player.
“It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.”​​
― William Faulkner
“It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.”​​
― William Faulkner
C) Other characters

Try to find examples of important one dimensional characters. Something tells me you won't get very far. 
How to create a character

At the core of the character is...
Step 1-What is character's lie?
Step 2-What does your character want?
Step 3-What does your character need?

Once this is determined, you can move on to filling out a character sketch. Or, you could determine the traits of a character you'd like, and then come up with their problems based off of those traits.

D) Discovering your characters

Download: Character sheet
Immerse yourself in your world. Just like (insert actor) continues playing their role even while not filming, you need to be completely present in the story you're creating. That means creating character sheets even for the most unimportant characters in your story.

Character Personality Traits tables (positive + negative)

Character physical traits table

(they can click the pictures to see a larger version of it)
E) Practice test

Around 8-12 questions
F) Test
Questions can cover...
Whether something is direct or indirect characterization
What is the most important quality about a character? Their drive?

“It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.”​​
― William Faulkner

Types of characters 
Protagonist-main character
Antagonist- opposes main character
Round-complicated personality, often contradictory 
Flat-One personality trait
“It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.”​​
― William Faulkner

All the best novels are about one thing: how we go on. The characters must survive the fallout of their own cowardice, folly, denial or misguided passion. They squander what matters most, and still they pick up the pieces. Julia Glass

For every important moment, your character needs to react. First viscerally, then emotionally, then physically and finally, intellectually. Often a writer will show a character reacting with deep thought about a situation, when their first natural reactions are missing.
— CS Lakin

Now, your character doesn’t have to know what he/she wants on page one, but it should be conclusively clear by page 30, preferably earlier. And then, every step your protagonist takes after that point should be a step toward that goal, only they are thwarted at every step by obstacles and characters who have their own set of desires.
— Nathan Bransford

People—and characters—are made up of their past experiences.When crafting a character, one of the most important aspects we consider is her past.
—Skye Fairwin

To have a great story and engaging characters, you would need to get under all that hair and makeup to find the not-so-beautiful person beneath who has needs and fears, and believes lies.
— CS Lakin

A character with one or more secrets adds mystery and intrigue to any genre.
— Linda S. Clare

I’ve been thinking about that word compassion and how it’s achieved in fiction—about how, in fact, my favorite characters in literature are those mysteriously human enough to startle me into empathy. It’s that word mystery that seems to be the point: The characters that most powerfully evoke my compassion are the ones who, paradoxically, most resist being known.
— Geoff Wyss

Overly tragic back stories played up front are not the way. Characters’ reactions and the way they deal with what’s happening to them in the “here and now” tells us SO MUCH more than acres of flashbacks or expositional dialogue about their traumatic childhoods.
— Lucy V Hay

Thoughts on Characters (sprinkle between sections)

B) Multidimensional Characters

​FIrst, figure out what the character's lie is

How to create a multidimensional character
Give examples, tips, and create a step by step process
How to show characterization directly and indirectly

Strength becomes weakness as story progresses
Character must have inner weakness
In the first act, character might not even know what his weaknesses are
The lie and Entrenchment in it via normal world
symptoms of lie

Character is in denial about what the problem really is, usually focuses on a symptom of the real problem

Why does he believe the lie? (their ghost) pg 42
​​7. Discussion

Does plot give characters meaning, or do characters give themselves meaning? Is meaning even significant?

These are questions that most writing books don't even attempt to address. It's like asking if the wheels help a car drive, or does the engine. In truth, without either, meaning is lost. 


2. Beginnings