Today, I’d like to introduce a book that, although it doesn’t receive the attention it deserves, should be in every writer’s library:  The Art of Character by David Corbett. Because I no longer review books, please consider this a recommendation.

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For writers just starting out on the path, how-tos are invaluable. Experimenting with different techniques can and will help individual writers develop the unique process that works best for them. But no book has all the answers, and some of these how-tos can be a danger if taken as gospel. I can name half a dozen well-respected, extremely popular writing guides that provide nothing but a method for writing genre based formula. Fine for those that want it.

For me? No thanks

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The Art of Character—Best ever quote on genre:

The problem lies not with genre but with formula, which consists of seeing genre conventions as restrictions rather than mere guidelines, ends in themselves rather than possibilities.

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There are a few books out there of value to all fiction writers. One is Stephen King’s On Writing, another is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. Maybe one day I’ll blog on books every writer should have in their library, but today is all about The Art of Character.

Good fiction begins with character, and The Art of Character is a tool kit for bringing your characters to life on the page. From primary and secondary, to protagonist and antagonist, The Art of Character teaches via example and exercise how to grow your characters not from a list of physical descriptors or a disembodied biography, but from scenes that incorporate a character’s wants, needs, secrets, shames, personal histories, fears, experiences, families, environment, and psyche.

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The Art of CharacterActions speak louder than words:

Imagining my characters through scenes opens them up in a way that descriptive biographies can’t, which exposes a simple, fundamental truth about writing: Characters reveal themselves more vividly in what they do and say than in what they think and feel.

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See the tabs in my copy of the book below? They mark the the key points I explore with each of my characters. Not every flag pertains to every character, but these tabs provide my roadmap for character exploration. They help me generate scenes, some of which yield character insight, other’s which actually make their way into my stories.

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The Art of Character—The need for surprise:

… we have to leave open-ended our sense of the character’s potential, so that his behavior retains the element of freedom and surprise needed to make him compelling.

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Are your characters flat and predictable? The Art of Character can bring dimension to your work by helping you turn your characters into fully realized human beings. Be good to yourself and your writing. Add The Art of Character to your writer’s bookshelf, dwell in its wisdom and reap its rewards.

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Share time!
Do you have a favorite writing how-to?

 

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