Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Create a Character Clinic

Create a Character Clinic by Holly Lisle. First OneMoreWord Edition, ©2006.

Bringing characters to life for the reader seems like an impossible dream for many writers. We give them distinguishing characteristics, maybe even distinct ways of speaking, but still they lie there on the page, bored and boring. Many writing books are full of What and Why; Holly Lisle's Create a Character Clinic is all about How.

CCC walks us through the process of creating vivid characters, then goes a step further -- it shows us how to go about bringing that character alive on the page. Part 1 of CCC is full of essential flow charts to help the writer find out about a character's conflicts, dreams, needs, relationships, history, and other important information. These charts provide a road map through a process that, until now, has appeared esoteric and difficult. CCC Shows us how to ask the right questions, and gives pointers about when to stop asking to leave room for the characters to grow and surprise us as we write. The exercise at the end of each chapter provide practice in putting the principles to use in our own characters. CCC shows us how to use Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to find out what drives a character at the deepest levels.

Part 2 delves into the actual how-to of putting words on paper to create believable characters using exposition, dialogue, and action. Again using well-designed flow charts, we can explore the furthest reaches of the character's sub-conscious. Then, we can use the Exercises to actually begin putting that character into a story and letting him develop into a three-dimensional person.

Part 3 is called "The Sins of Characterization, and How to Commit Them Right". I found this section to be worth the price of the book (US $9.95) by itself. Lisle takes many of the most common mistakes writers make with characterization, and shows us how to use those mistakes to our advantage. The secret is in knowing when and how to use these methods to advance the story. Learning when and how to break the rules is essential to development as a writer.

Lisle's writing and instructional style is clear and easy to follow. She is able to draw the reader in and make them feel a part of the process -- a collaborator rather than a student. Create a Character Clinic takes pride of place on my desk as an essential, practical guide through one of the most difficult parts of writing, for me, at least. I strongly recommend Create a Character Clinic as a necessary part of a writer's library.

P.S. While you are at HollyShop buying CCC, take a look at Lynn Viehl's Way of the Cheetah, as well. Review forthcoming. If you would like to participate in promoting these terrific books and make a little money on the side, consider joining the affiliate program.

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