2012 OWFI Writer’s Conference – Characterization

I had a blast at the three-day Oklahoma Writer’s Federation Conference this week. The speakers were overflowing with useful information. I was actually getting information overload at one point.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank OWFI for giving me a scholarship to attend. The experience was more than I expected and the board did a great job organizing the entire event. The conference showed me what an invaluable resource OWFI is in pursuing a writing career. The support I fail to find elsewhere can be found here among others who understand me and my writing aspirations. I feel truly blessed in having found them. I connected and was welcomed by my local chapter the Norman Galaxy of Writers, even though I haven’t attended my first meeting yet. I look forward to sharing my writing travails with them.

Okay, okay, enough with the mushy stuff, huh? Well, it’s all true, how they made me feel. I’ve been to other conferences for other things and don’t remember feeling quite as welcome as I did at this conference. Something like that deserves some recognition.

I can’t choose a best speaker but here are some things I learned that I’d like to pass along. Since I can’t fit all I learned on one post, and you don’t want to read a book in one post, I’m splitting up my post into four parts. This first post is about what I learned from Steven James on “Building Three-dimensional Characters.” Easily the most immediate information I’ll use on my current project.

Steven James opened my eyes to a whole new perspective on how to approach it. His perspective is instead of focusing on a character’s past, focus on what they want or desire and what they are willing to do to get it. The second thing to focus on is give the reader what they want. They don’t want a lot of backstory on a character. They want to be able to relate to a character’s desires and fears, their feelings and how they handle situations. We are writing for our audience, so let’s give them what they want.

I can’t rehash every detail of his lecture here (it was a three hour session) but these are the basics of building three-dimensional characters. His view on building characters we can relate to was really unique. There are ways in which we can convey whether a character is an alpha or not, whether they are strong or weak, and we always want to keep our protagonist strong throughout. If we make them appear weak, the reader loses interest in the character. No one wants to hear about a wimpy hero. There is no such thing, right? No matter the character’s weaknesses we need to keep them at alpha status. The same goes for the Antagonist. The Antagonist should be equal in status to the Protagonist. However, in order to overcome the evil Antagonist, the Protagonist needs to be slightly smarter. Otherwise, how would he outsmart the bad guy?

There were so many other great things to consider when building a great character, so many more details Steven James imparted. I wish I could list them here for you. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, I highly recommend you make every effort. If not, get his books. I plan to get them because I’m sure there is much more I can use than what I learned at the conference.

Next post I’ll share what I learned about building an Author platform with some tips I got from Dan Case, another great speaker who is a past President of OWFI, editor of Writing for DOLLARS!, and will be lecturing in Ft. Worth, TX in June 2012. I hear it will be on blogging. I’m going to try and make it.

I’ve got a lot of thinking to do in developing my characters this week as well as working on my outline which is due end of this month. One thing I did accomplish last week was laying out a schedule for completing my first draft by end of August 2012 and all revisions by end of year, 2012.

One last thing, I found some great blog postings on Steven James’s blog and other guest blogs featuring him as well. Great stuff packed with writing wisdom. Enjoy!

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