Mar 12, 2010

Changing Characters

I've been checking out Scrivener. At first I was disappointed when I realised my program Plot Builder wouldn't work on my new Mac. I begrudgingly downloaded Scrivener and promptly declared it 'too hard to figure out'. There were tutorials available but... pfft. who has time for tutorials?

Of course once I gave in and watched some of the tutorial clips and played around, I've found that it's now my top pick for fiction writing. I can even make onscreen plot cards to use in the How to Review Your Novel course. I've a lot to learn, but I'm loving Scrivener.

With the edits of Dog Show Detective coming along, I have now attacked my characters. Viciously. I've gone over when they first enter, how important they appear, and the big one: WHY are they even in the story? Some characters needed to be given more important roles - or get axed. Holly Lisle has a good system for these revisions, she uses a points system in her course (How to Review Your Novel). 
For example: The character name; 'Tommy' vs 'little Tommy snot-nosed Williams' - using the first suggests a smaller role in the narrative. There are other methods of weighing your characters in this course and making sure you don't put too much emphasis on characters you won't be using much, but make important characters stand out enough.

Another thing to consider about your supporting characters is what do they have invested in this story? What's their motivation for helping or hindering the protagonist? What do they hope to gain? You don't want hanger-ons or submissive personas just taking up space. Every single character counts. You might think because you have a young protagonist then you need to include parents, possibly, but they still need a role in the protagonists journey. Either they make the goal harder to reach or they have their own reasons for helping.

I've also been revisiting my audiobook version of Chris Vogler's Using Myth to Power The Story. This looks at traditional storytelling of the journey of the hero. There are a pool of traditional roles for characters, such as Mentor, Trickster, Hero etc. You can find out a little more about these archetypes at: Using Archetypes to Write Meaningful Characters. Using archetypes as guidelines for your character list can help make sure you don't end up with characters that are too similar. And don't forget every character needs flaws, you can read more about that in a previous blog post: Creating Character Flaws. I wouldn't take the archetypes too far, you don't want a story that seems too formulated or it might end up like this movie trailer:

(not as raunchy as the image looks)
To Write Is To Know (Gabriele Rico) is my most recent audiobook download and I've found it filled with creative writing exercises to get you making new connections. I'm going to try some of these exercises to get some new material for The Warracknabeal Kids and will report back the results soon!

Do you have a favourite book, podcast or course to help you through editing? I'm always looking for more!


  1. I have never heard of that writing program but I will look it up for sure.
    I read this book while editing: How to write and sell your mystery novel.


  2. I've heard great things about Scrivener. Keep us posted.

    As always, thanks for the valuable resources. :-)

  3. I found The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman very helpful.

    I've been interested in trying a writing program - thanks for the recommendation.

  4. That video clip was fantastic. I need to watch it again. Thanks for the post on characters. I can hear an evil laugh, "Some of you will be eliminated. Ha ha ha ha."

  5. Thanks for the comments, I'm going to hop on Amazon and check out those book recommendations today - don't be surprised if you see them in my 'books I bought' list soon ;-)