Monday, March 7, 2011


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"The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination."- Don Williams Jr.

If you want to create characters with an awesome life, revisit your own and think about the different paths and roads you've taken. Are there roads you would have avoided if you had known  of the potholes or dangers involved? It's the same with your characters, only you get to create the map.
Here are some of the major roads your character might encounter on his journey.

Main Street
Every major city has a road that acts as its center attraction. The road helps to define the city. Your character's Main Street is his center.  Instead of restaurants and shops,  it is his world view of who he is. It is his core. Find his Main Street and you will also discover his motivation, a key factor in developing a character's story.

The Winding Road
If a character never travels a winding road, but just a freeway everyday, he will miss the enjoyment of wondering what's on the other side of the hill or around the curve. It's that winding road that will bring changes in the character's life, good and bad.

Nightmares on Elm Street
On your character's journey , he will cross Elm street-where the nightmares are. They may be real, imagined, or physical. This is where your character is chased up a tree and rocks are being thrown at him. He will not be able to appreciate the other good roads if he hasn't crossed this difficult street. Going through tough times will not last for the entire book and the nightmare on Elm Street will end.

Easy Street
Avoid letting your characters take Easy Street. If they have a smooth ride and don't have to endure the bumps from potholes in the road,  roads with no curves, and no hills to climb, they will have no challenges. Without risks, challenges, and hardships, there is no character growth and the writer finds his character driving down a dead end street. Your character needs to be willing to do things that expand his comfort zone and challenge himself. The  reader expects nothing less.

Getting On the Super Highway
If your character is in the middle of fast traffic and  a crisis, he has to be focused, disciplined, and alert. If he's not, he gets sent back to Elm Street or lands in a massive pile up or both.

Three things that you can do that will have an impact on your character are:

Change His Thoughts- This is the point where your character decides to change some aspect of his life, be it personal or professional.

Change His Actions- This is where his thoughts and actions come together.With his thoughts and actions aligned, he faces the future with a new view.

 Change His Direction-If your characters are flat and boring, it could be they are driving in the wrong direction and need to take a U-turn. Take a look at their map and help them out.

What do you do to create better characters for your story?


Anonymous said...

What a unique way of looking at character development. I've used goal motivation and conflict for the hero's journey.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Great advice, Ruby. One of my friends couldn't sell and I kept telling her that she had to be meaner to her characters. When an editor gave her a "good" rejection, she said your characters don't have enough obstacles to overcome. If everything's hunky dory, there's no story.

Jennifer August said...

Interesting post. I have used tons of character sheets over the years and not run across anything like this. Something to ponder, thank you!

N. R. Williams said...

I like to add unexpected elements and plot twist.
N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium

Ruby Johnson said...

I use GMC. This is just my take on it. Thanks for your comment.

Ruby Johnson said...

Thanks for posting a comment. You're right. If nothing bad happens to a character, they aren't nearly as interesting.

Ruby Johnson said...

Thank you for your comment.John Foxjohn says he has over 40 pages on his characters so that he knows how they will react to any situation. I'm not that disciplined, but I definitely like to know the character's world view because it colors everything the character does and says.

Ruby Johnson said...

Thanks for your comment. Adding unexpected plot twists should certainly challenge your characters. I like plotting also. I'm definitely not able to write without knowing where I'm going.

Regina Richards said...

I sometimes wish I could change my characters. They just seem to be stubborn. They change as the story develops, but I usually am not consciously directing the changes.

Ruby Johnson said...

Thanks for stopping by. I think you must be able to actually get inside your characters. Great if you can do it and the ultimate goal of a lot of writers.

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