DiAnn Mills is an award winning writer who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than fifty-five books published.
Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader’s Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011.
DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also the Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.
IT'S ALL ABOUT CHARACTER
If I were to show you a round graph that revealed the parts of story, characterization would be at the hub. Without multi dimensional characters, story has no ground zero. Plot, dialogue, setting, genre, emotive conflict, and symbolism rise from a complex character.
Agents’ and editors’ desks are littered with manuscripts that fall flat because the writer didn’t layer an outstanding story. Think about your favorite novel or movie. The plot may have grabbed your attention, but the characters stole your heart.
How is a story built from the ground up with exciting characters? Foremost, it takes time and patience. Invest in a psychology book and educate yourself in human behavior. Motivation is the key to dynamic characters, and that’s discovered in the folds of personality. Whether the writer uses a list of questions, a voice journal, personality testing, or embarks upon a journey that uses a variety of ways to reveal character, it’s a process. Just like getting to know a new friend.
An expert writer can build motivation by studying physical characteristics. Big ears or nose, wiry hair, or an odd physique is a catalyst for deep rooted resentment and a lack of self-confidence. Imagine the depth of a character when the writer uncovers more layers of personality. Eccentric behaviors can add endearing qualities to the character, such as a need to wash hands often, a hoarder, or an obsessed animal lover. We humans are not easy creatures to understand, and neither do we want to create predictable characters.
What about the other areas of story?
Plot is established when the character is committed to wants and needs, goals and desires. Backstory establishes the why of motivation, pushing him toward solving a problem or achieving a goal. The method a character uses to achieve his goal depends on his personality.
The ideal setting is one that takes an antagonistic stand, such as a desert or an island in the path of a hurricane. This means the writer must understand what settings would work against the character’s personality and scene goal.
The words a character speaks flow from the traits assigned to him, his life experiences, and his story goal. Nonverbal body language, which can be up to 90% of our communication, is unique to the character’s personality.
Not every character can slide into different genres unless the assigned traits show him flexible and goal oriented.
A novel is read because of the emotion rising from characters struggling to achieve a goal. The reader takes ownership of the character’s emotions and feels connected to the story.
Symbolism enhances story meaning by adding a deeper dimension and building on the story’s message. A tangible object, such as a ring, takes on a psychological meaning through a character’s point of view
Characterization guides every level of your story. By developing complex characters who react and respond according to unique traits, the writer has readers begging for more.