The last week proved to be very good for me creatively. Thanks to participation in Beth Bornstein Dunnington’s writers workshop on Sunday* I now have the first draft of four short stories that I’m going to get circulating in the next few weeks and five short-shorts (or fictoids, as I like to call ‘em). You’ll be seeing those (i.e., the fictoids) over the next few weeks. The four short stories are pretty short -- most around 800 or so words, one almost twice that length – but I think they’ll be fun reads once I finish polishing them.
No progress on the books but since I knocked off a number of short works I’m not bugging out on that…yet. But I do need to get those drafts completed ASAP.
In my last writing report I mentioned a method of creating a character that (IIRC) Samuel R. Delaney discussed in his book The Jewel-Hinged Jaw.
I don’t think Delaney claimed this as his own but credited another writer with it; however, I can’t remember who that may have been so, Chip, if I’ve short changed ya, my apologies…
This is what you need to create the basics of a character:
- A name
- A gender
- An age
- An occupation
- A physical description
- An emotional description
Jane is a tall, effervescent retired librarian.
Jack, 24, is a stocky, sour auto mechanic.
Brian is a moody dark-haired high school student.
Betty is a pensive middle-aged housewife in a wheelchair.
You’ll notice how it doesn’t take very much to create a character in the readers' minds. Give them just a few pertinent details and they’ll fill in all the blanks.
And you don’t have to break each component down: Names often indicate gender as well, a high school student by definition is a teenager, etc. (And clearly “occupation” is not limited to what their actual workaday job is.)
But those 6 basics are all you need to ground a character; you can build on it from there.
Jane, the tall, effervescent retired librarian, is clearly a much different person from John, the cantankerous 40 year old corpulent librarian, who is a different person from Joan, the shy, gawky tween intern librarian, who is different from Juan, the elegant trim 30 year old librarian.
* I’ve known Beth as a fellow scribe since my animation days and highly recommend her workshops; check out her blog for more info (and, no, I didn’t travel to Hawaii; Beth was holding a special workshop in Venice [no, not Italy, California].).