Some writers are teachers, others help aspiring authors when asked, some feel they don't want to muddle the process of learning by injecting their own opinions on how to accomplish the task of writing.
Then comes the times when we wish we could be the teachers so our own pet peeves could be relieved. Once and for all, we could explain to all writers "this is a better way to do that, not the way you are doing it!"
So, if you could teach other writers a better way to do something, what would it be? What would you like other writers to know? What would YOU teach?
To answer my own question, I would teach a course on Character Building. I would relate character making to learning a dance. Each step leads into the next and the next, seemingly flawless as it progresses. The best characters are not flawless, they are not stunningly beautiful or brawny, they have troubles, and the closer a writer becomes to his/her character, the deeper the emotions, the more meaningful each flaw becomes. The more depth a character has, the more involved the reader will be. Complexity takes on new meaning when dealing with a character's personality. A leading character has many layers, and I would have my students fill out a profile for each character they are planning to create:
* Name, age, race
* Physical Description: sex, eye color, hair color, physique, scars or other distinguishable markings; other physical traits - bad knee, poor eye sight, etc. How does he talk - drawl, street slick, up-tight? How does your character dress:
* Pets: past or present
* Family: build a history of family - good and bad, names, location of home, etc.
* Favorite music: be specific - this may help develop your character quirks, endearments, etc.
* Eating habits: likes/dislikes; does he eat by himself, go home to family? eat on the run? Everybody eats - make this as specific as possible
* Sleeping habits: is he restless, sound sleeper, nap?
* Mode of preferred transportation: horses? bikes? trains? How does your character move from point A to point B?
* Any hobbies: sailing, boxing, knitting?
* Any habits: smoking, chewing gum, nail biting?
* Favorite sayings: swearing or cursing? slang or other current sayings?
* Favorite hero: who would your character look up to? why?
* Name your character's insecurities: what is your character worried about? List at least three.
* What does your character yearn for: understanding? money? love? justice? Explain in detail.
* What does your character fear: a spouse? police? demons? children? failure? success?
* What does your character dream about: this may already be answered in the above questions, if so, find a deeper level of understanding to relate to your readers.
*What will it take to make your character grow or feel he succeeded in his conflicts: catch the bad guys, find justice served, overcome a fear he's harbored too long, find his truelove, etc.
Once this generic profile is complete, then I would explain this is the starting point in describing a character for a book. This is the tip of the pencil, not the completed character. Now, as a writer, you have something to work with and develop. Give this character conflict worthy of his existence. Give him something to do, accomplish or learn. In other words, make him real. Give him life and allow him to move about and think for himself.
What would you teach other writers? Share with us!
Til next time ~