Tag Archives: Creating Characters

Creating Characters, The Complete Guide

Creating Characters, The Complete Guide to Populating Your Fiction

From the Editors of Writer’s Digest, Foreword by Steven James

Book Review and Commentary   September 27, 2016



“Because the character is in the plot, and the plot is in the character.” Wise words from Steven James in his foreword , a national bestselling novelist, with a Master’s Degree in Storytelling, and writing instructor for over 20 years. Good writers are always looking for the best tools to use to develop characters.  In Creating Characters, you’ll learn all kinds of tips and insights from a variety of experienced authors.


What I liked best about this writing craft book is the variety of approaches to character development. This is not just one teacher’s view, nor one way to build your characters. We have over 20 authors’ advice.  A treasure.

Screenwriter and novelist Chuck Wendig gives you “25 Things You Should Know about Character.” How the character is your vehicle through the plot, finding the 3 beats for your character, finding the darkness inside, and more.

Novelist Joseph Bates discusses how  external motivation and internal motivation achieves the conflict for suspense.

Having some troubles with Point of View? Nancy Kress, author of 33 books, covers first person to third to omniscient POV and describes each in easy detail. This is critical in character development to get the right POV.

Do your characters know the difference between profanity, swearing, and vulgarisms? There are skills in handling all. Elizabeth Sims, prize-winning novelist knows first hand. I found this chapter very insightful.

James Scott Bell, best-selling suspense writer has got you covered on how to “Relate to Readers with a Lead Character.” How do you build sympathy for your character? There are 4 ways. How do you hook the reader on the first page? What are the rules for successful exposition? Bell has 3 you need to know and “do the iceberg” is one of them. I really loved this–so clear!

Literary agent Donald Maass will tell you what you need to know about creating a powerful three-dimensional villain that can also sway  readers’ hearts.

Award-winning author and novelist David Corbett will show you how to “Push Your Character to the Limits.” His pages on the role of contradictions is five-star. Jungian psychology, the Shadow, and subtext.

What about character arc? Oh this one  has 4 veteran authors showing you the path:  Joseph Bates, James Scott Bell, Jeff Gerke, Jack Smith. Everything from creating the character arc, to the arc within plot, to that critical moment of truth, and how to rethink the characterization using the direct method and the indirect method.

Highly recommended writing book, and I think good reading material before you start that next novel.



My Recommended List of the Best Writing Books I’ve Read.

Dialogue, The Art of Verbal Action for the Page, Stage, & Screen, by Robert McKee  (book review here)
The Annotated Dracula (Bram Stoker), Annotated by Mort Castle (book review here) (Also The Annotated Jane        Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) Annotated by K.M. Weiland)
How to Write Like Chekhov, Advice and Inspiration,
Editor Piero Brunello and Lena Lencek  (book review here)
Steering the Craft, A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, Ursula K. Le Guin (book review here)
Writing Wild, Tina Welling (book review here)
Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg (book review here)
Method Writing, Jack Grapes (book review here)
Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury (book review here)
On Writing, A Memoir, Stephen King (book review here)

Writing Fiction, A Guide to Narrative Craft, by Janet Burroway. All the basics of how to write: the writing process, show vs. tell, characterization, fictional atmosphere and place, story structure and plot, point of view, theme, and revision.
Story, Robert McKee
Story Trumps StructureSteven James
The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass
The Art of Fiction, John Gardner (I reread this book once a year, it’s that good)
Making Shapely Fiction, Jerome Stern
The Art of Character, David Corbett
Getting into Character, Brandilyn Collins
The Secret Miracle, the Novelist’s Handbook, edited by Daniel Alarcon
Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande
The Faith of a Writer, Life, Craft, Art, Joyce Carole Oates
If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland
Reading like a Writer, Francine Prose
Elements of Style, Strunk & White

Best Editing Books for Writers:
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne & Dave King
A Dash of Style, Noah Lukeman
The Grammar Bible, Michael Strumpf & Auriel Douglas
Line by Line, Claire Kehrwald Cook
The Careful Writer, Theodore M. Bernstein
Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Second Edition, Ernest Gowers
Chicago Manual of Style
Words Into Type, Third Edition, Skillin & Gay

Comments are welcome, please!


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