Construct Your Characters
I don’t know about you, but characterization has always given me one hell of a hard time. I like to think I have improved this aspect of writing quite a bit over the past year or so (mostly due to writing short stories). I’m currently reading Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. The book is a great read so far, highly recommended. It’s been Chapter 5: Characters that’s made the book absolutely worth the $17.99 price tag.
Maass advises constructing your characters to be larger-than-life. The constructing bit hit me like a baseball bat to the head swung by Barry Bonds or any number of other supersized sluggers. A light bulb went off; I had an epiphany. Construct your characters just like you construct the plot. Your characters can be specifically designed to have strengths (examples from the book: cunning, wisdom, courtesy, self-denial, courage, reverence, evenhandedness, etc.), to have inner conflict, to have self-regard for their emotions, and to be witty. Upon reading this, let me tell you, I had a flood of ideas to make three or four of my characters breakout from the page.
I have also come to another realization. In my recently published short story War Machine (containing easily my best characterizations to date), I did as Maass advises. I constructed my characters. I purposely made arms dealer Gavin Clement smarmy and self-centered and a caring father. I made a conscious choice to give antisocial Russian hacker Natasha morals that she refuses to compromise. In other words, I constructed them just like I did the plot.