Final prep workshop: Characterology 101

[shashin type=”album” id=”7″ size=”small” crop=”n” columns=”max” caption=”y” order=”date” position=”center”]

Saturday, October 17th was the fourth and final prep workshop for our region. Kat Stepp (aka Kat’s Meow) delivered the presentation that she and Todd Hogan (aka writertodd07) had created together. Twenty three people took part in the workshop; four came in costume as a character:

[shashin type=”photo” id=”194″ size=”small” columns=”max” order=”user” position=”center”]

The powerpoint slides are now available.


  • NAG tomorrow (2015-10-18, Sunday, 1:30 pm)
  • IRC chatroom (2015-10-19, Monday, 8 pm)
  • Japanesey Path event Sushi+, 6pm tonight (2015-10-17) – hosted by Ed (Fred Duck)



18K Challenge

  • 18K in 6 days, watch for the challenge thread

Intro (Sam McAdams, samcadams)

  • 4 first timers
  • Started by Chris Baty in 1999
  • 50,000+ words in 30 days (or 1667 words per day)
  • Everything is free!
  • Sign up at
  • Set your region home to USA::Illinois::Naperville region to get our e-mail messages and words of encouragement
  • Update your wordcount in November
  • Donate to NaNoWriMo at (non-profit organization)
  • Don’t forget to validate near the end of the month (validation is needed for some of the prizes)
  • Many forums around the world; you can get advice–many resources available around the site.
  • NaNo Accountability Group (NAG) – meeting weekly in October to review what you’ve done in the week, what you’re planning to do, talk about struggles you’re having, ask questions
  • Kick off pot-luck lunch – 2015-10-24 11:45 AM-2:45 PM — be sure to RSVP in the region forum
  • Local site: (especially that has the calendar)
  • 2nd Library Crawl with write-ins almost every day in November
  • All Day Write-In
  • Virtual chat room:
  • Facebook
  • After NaNoWriMo: The Writing Journey – cafeteria style writing group
    • Shakespeare Reader’s Theatre
    • short story anthology
  • NaNo hipster PDA
  • NaNoWriMo is something of a social activity (helps keep you on track on your goals)
  • Thank Goodness It’s Over (TGIO) party – December 5, Saturday, 11:45 AM-2:45 PM (bring your Library Crawl cards!)
  • Sponsor prizes for validated winners

Workshop: Characterology 101: Heroes

  • Kat Stepp (Kat’s Meow)
  • Works at Starbucks; will host write-ins there

Character costumes

  • Sam as Arthur Dent, Hitchhiker’s Guide
  • John as Captain Hammer (from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog)
    • tought but has a complex
  • Diane – May from the book Black Tattoo by Steven Toman

Think about your characters

  • Think about what characters say, how they are saying it, how they present themselves to the world

We’re all Characters

  • Fill out the character info sheet of your partner
  • personality prime characteristics – informs you about their morals – gives your characters depth
  • Character worksheets
  • Main characters (these go on an emotional journey)
  • secondary characters (you don’t really know them, more of background characters–you don’t want them to be cardboard)

Character: The Driver of the Story

  • What is the protagonist’s emotional journey? How do they grow and develop? This is what connects the readers to your book — when they can empathize with your characters.
  • What is the theme of your story? How do you show this through your characters.

POV – Whose emotions are we sharing

  • Protagonist is the star; usually they will also be your POV characters, but you can make the POV character be someone other than the protagonist (e.g., Great Gatsby–the story is told from the girl’s cousin who is living on the property owned by the eccentric protagonist)
  • They can continue the story after the protagonist dies
  • Protagonist can be more secretive–preserve their mysteries
  • Make observations the protagonist couldn’t
  • Do you have good reason for this split? Will you lose more than you gain?
    • who will be hurt by the action going on? someone affected emotionally usually makes the best POV character
    • who can be present at the lcimax?
    • who gets most of the good scenes? (readers get bored finding things out just by dialogue)
    • what kind of observations do you want to make about life in your story?

Choose your name wisely

  • Get a good name
  • Names you like the sound of (how it rolls around in people’s heads; things difficult to read will annoy the reader)
  • Made a name that didn’t appear anywhere on the internet (via google)
  • Thought about names that would appear in the era of my novel
  • For a world that is a fantasy version of Italy in the past: Italian and late Roman names–something similar
  • My main character won’t have a name; haven’t decided how she will be called. Fictionalizing a section of scripture; there she is only known as the Shunamite (and her husband)
  • My favorite character is Vivian Rosati
    • Italian
    • cares about her appearance (good grooming)
    • Vivian – name from the 1920’s
  • Family background: ethnicity is assumed by the reader
  • The further you stray from reader expectation, the more obligated you are to explain (“a boy name Sue”)
  • Some names have migrated across the gender boundary
  • Each country has a different set of names that is popular there. Ditto for each era.
  • Denoting personality traits through the use of names is dangerous–you can generally only get away from doing this in YA or comic books

Quick tips to best names

  • Choose a name based on what stereotypes you want your audience to assume (or stereotypes you want your character to play against expectations)
  • Name generators (online)

Name Dropping

  • Check root meanings
  • Get your era right
  • Speak the names out loud
  • Avoid names that start with the same first character in the same book (e.g., Gina and Giovana)
  • Similar names could denote a family relationship

Dialogue that develops your character and moves your story forward

  • This is something you do in the editing process; generally won’t be very good when writing your first draft.
  • Content and tone: what your character talks about and how they say it
  • Grammar and word choices: Use grammar to show the characters personality and background
  • A little dialect or none at all (mispronounce words and pseak with accents)
  • Simple attribution or none at all: said and asked are sufficient 98 percent of the time.
  • Hold the adverbs.
  • Sprinkle lightly with internal dialogue (adds dimension to the interaction and insight into what the character is thinking)
  • Q: Writing from a child or young teenager’s perspective, can you put the actual word in brackets?
    • A: You probably want it to come out from dialogue. Use the reactions from other characters to show what you’re getting at.

Making dialogue sound authentic

  • Good dialogue is not realistic conversation (realistic conversation is often boring)
  • If it is too clever, get rid of it
  • To check if it is working, read it aloud

Showing emotions

  • Presencing is a term used when writing characters that seem physically present
  • Give characters props to show emotions
  • These props can be used to show different mental states
  • Other non-prop things for story beats: Chew on a lip, biting nails, rolling eyes, pacing, pulling hair, crossing arms, breathing in, wringing hands, cracking knuckles

Dialogue that moves

  • Should provide new information or reveal new obstacles
  • Creates the dynamic between characters that furthers the story’s theme
  • Increases suspense
  • Introduces a pivotal moment in the plot

Profanity and other raw language

  • Forbidden language, curses, swears, obscenities, vulgarisms
  • Use this very lightly if at all (or you risk alienating your audience)

Character Hierarchy

  • Protagonist
    • key ingredient
    • often hero and focal point
    • sometimes not a hero; sometimes the villain
    • reader’s frame of reference
  • Antaonist
    • conflict character in opposition to the protagonist
    • throwing out hurdles for the protagonist to stumble over
    • often an external character (not POV)
    • might be internal (subconscious, like Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde)
    • might be Nature
  • Lover aka the nurturer
    • can play several roles
    • generally the love interest
    • a helper
    • a mentor
    • might be a family member who loves and supports the main character (nurturer)
  • The amigo/friend
    • supporting character
    • might be a family member

Using characters as the emotional delivery system

  • You want your readers to empathize with your character; they should want to go on that journey with that character
  • You have to have an emotional connection
  • ref: wheel of emotions


  • Diversity is your friend; characters shouldn’t be too similar to each other
  • you can start off with a stereotype but right away you should delve into the complexities of the character (otherwise they are cardboard, cookie cutter characters)

More character reference diagrams

  • wheel or roles the characters can play and the different ways you can use them to tell your story
  • another wheel of just women roles

Psychology of a character

  • When you’re in the mind of your character, you’re in their psychology
  • You can use the Meyers-Briggs personality type
  • This is useful for quickly understanding how your character will react to things
  • Extroverting, Introverting
    • directing one’s interest outward or inward
  • Sensing, Intuiting
    • sensing: special capacity for perception, estimation or appreciation
    • intuition: direct perception of truth, fact, independent of any reasoning process
  • Thinking, Feeling
    • rational logical reasoning vs. emotional preception or attitude
  • Judging, Perceiving
    • fixed lines of good and bad/organized vs. flexible and spontaneous, enjoying the journey over the destination

Psychology of a character

  • Protector – ISFJ
  • Counselor – INFJ
  • Mastermind – INTJ
  • Thinker – INTP
  • Inspector – ISTJ
  • Crafter – ISTP
  • Artist – ISFP
  • Maverick – ENTJ
  • Inventor – ENTP
  • Performer – ESFP
  • Promoter – ESTP
  • Guardian – ESTJ
  • Provider – ESFJ
  • Ref: google Meyers-Briggs personality type in google images


  • External: what we want
  • Internal: why we want it
  • Revenge:
    • external: revenge against betrayer
    • internal: she is trying to prove her mother wrong
  • Character:
    • extenral: not be ignorant anymore (trying to see what is true and not true)
    • internal: find connection to people who have passed on in life
  • Wants to make people happy (external); wants validation (internal)


  • Motivation
    • destroy the Ring
  • External
    • Sam’s relationship with Gollum to vie for Frodo’s trust
    • Legolas and Gimli
    • Saruman and the orcs
  • Internal
    • Sam loves Frodo
  • You can have lots of external conflicts but only a few internal conflicts (to avoid your story getting messy)
  • Ditto for motivation

Organize your conflict thoughts

The Hero’s Journey — A Map

  • The Call (the vision)
  • The initiation
  • Adventure: anything is possible
  • Breakthrough
  • Realization

Emotional arc


  • Breaking down movies structure
  • D4Darious
  • Duolit
  • Writer’s Digest book: Creating Characters
    • very useful reference!
  • Epiguide

Breakout exercise

  • Most important scene for your character is the introductory one
    • you’re setting your tone
    • reader begins to visualize your character (stereotypes can help to speed this up)
    • you have the hook–get your readers to want to read more about this character
  • Take ten minutes and jot down some ideas about your character’s introductory scene
  • What do you want your readers to imagine and think of when they meet your character
  • Mannerisms, how they interact with other characters

POV: third person

  • internal dialogue – you have to be in the character’s POV
  • omniscient POV – you can move around, use multiple POV’s (but make it clear the reader knows whose POV they are in)
    • Game of Thrones is told from 20 POV’s; each POV character name is put into the chapter title
    • check clarity by reading it aloud and by having others read it — does it still make sense?

Having people read your work

  • First drafts are really rough; would you let people read this?
    • Yes; you can find out if there are plot holes
    • first draft: getting the story out of your head and on paper
    • second draft: ensure that your characters are developed properly, there are no holes
    • third draft: polished
  • Find a writer or a reader to give you feedback; you want honest feedback

Finding a good writing group

  • The Journey has an Editing Path
    • the Journey has workshops on how to give critiques
    • paid subscriptions are $35/year; you could also use their free service, but the paid subscription gives you extra powers to manage your novel more easily.
  • Most libraries have writing groups associated with them

First person POV tips

  • Keep your story interesting!
  • Use dialogue to move the character’s story forward
  • Try first person omniscient – they tell it in past tense and know everything that will happen

Making a well-rounded cast of characters

  • do these people have colleagues or family/friends important to the story?
  • who are we bringing into the character’s life to either add obstacles or support the character?
  • what broke the trust to make the main character an isolationist? Explore the past.

No Comments

Leave a Reply