Where young people (and others) come for on-going discussions on creative writing.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Three more C's in Characterization


Okay, let’s keep talking about characters. While it is important to know the physical and emotional qualities or attributes of your characters, it also vital to understand your character—particularly your main character’s psychology as well. So, to help you get a better grasp on this sometimes wishy-washy aspect of character development I have three more C’s to help you along.

Mango has lots of issues
Every protagonist must have a CORE WOUND. In other words something must have happened to your main character to hurt him or her. Perhaps your character’s mother died when she was young, or there was a messy divorce, or illness, or crime. Something happened to this character long before your story starts that will need to be handled as the story progresses. This is what we call the beginning of your character arc.

What is your character’s CORE WOUND? Let’s say for example that your character, who we’ll call Melvin lost his father. He was killed in a helicopter crash while fighting in Afghanistan. Pretty big wound. The past trauma that Melvin must come to terms with by the end of the story.

Now the next thing to add to this equation is the CORE COPING MECHANISM. In other words, what does Melvin do to deal with his pain? Maybe he makes jokes a lot or lies about his father and tells all his friends that his Dad is a big war hero. This is how Melvin pushes the pain away. It’s easier to lie about Dad then face his death.

Next comes the CORE DEFENSE. What is it Melvin needs to do before he can grow or move on with his life. What is he defending by lying and making jokes? That’s right, his father’s death. BY the end of the story Melvin must admit and embrace his father’s death in order to grow.

Now, here’s the thing, this is not necessarily the story you are telling. It is just what your character is dealing with inside. On the surface it could be a story about baseball, but even so, Melvin’s inner journey will be about his father’s death. 

Having these three C's etched in place will help you write a better story with a stronger protagonist. 

Make sense?

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