Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Angel in Disguise

link to original here
Apparently Jennifer Nielsen is an angel in disguise. I needed what she had to say to help me get all amped up for diving back into writing. She presented one of my favorite workshops at the conference this last weekend titled, “The Psychology of Characterization.” Here’s an excerpt from the blurb describing the class: 

Okay, you’ve put your characters together, but do you really understand them…get inside your character’s heads, discover their fears, worries, and motives (hint: they might not be what you think!),…understand why they might not be cooperating with your plot.

And she had me at “Hello.”

The workshop was 45 minutes of non-stop information, starting with four basics of characterization. These are great tools for me, things to keep in the back of my head/notes to double-check when I’m struggling:

1. Personality is stable; traits may evolve or adapt (ex: Type-A personality vs. an angry temperament).

2. It’s not only the presence of a trait that matters, but how intense it is (ex: an angry temperament vs. a person so angry and out of control they are abusive).

3. People do behave out of character, but not very often, so their behavior needs to match their traits (ex: a shy young girl isn’t going to jump at the chance to do a solo on stage for the talent show, so if your character does this there’s got to be a good reason for it).

4. People’s issues tend to be reworked repeatedly throughout their lives, so when designing characters, it’s okay (better?) to have just 2-3 issues they’re hashing and rehashing as the story progresses, rather than many issues. Why complicate things more than you need to?

I loved these, but then she went into detail about a character building worksheet she created based on her long-time experience in work as well as what she’s done through her own writing. Since she made it herself, I’m not sure what the copy-right issues would be? At the very least, I think it’d probably be rude to just start handing it out without her consent. Instead, I’ll refer you to Jennifer Nielsen herself. It’ll definitely be worth your time to contact her…she has a couple of sites:

Last, she’s compiled list of resources that can help writers understand their characters’ personalities and traits better…
click on image to enlarge

And her book coming out in April looks, in a word? Awesome. Intriguing. Fantastic. Take your pick. And then go check it out.

Total pages logged as of today: 183 but visit my Deadline Updates page for more info

Moment of Magic today:

Happy Spring Equinox! With this I give you? Music to relax into and pretty springtime visuals...
What did you do on your first day of Spring?


  1. Thanks for the great tips. I can't wait to have time to follow the links.

    The first day of spring was great for me, a lovely walk in my local park. I wandered off the beaten track and had an amazing flash of inspiration. Can't wait to get it down on paper :-D

    Other than passing on amazig tips, what did you get up to?

    1. So I appologise in advance about the links, or about the fact that they look like links but you can't just click on them and they open up for you in a browser -- I couldn't figure out how to do that with the picture? So if you want me to email it to you I can, otherwise I'm thinking you have to just write it down by hand and then copy it into a browser. Bah. (Look at me complaining about actually having to TYPE something in...heh, I'm spoiled by technology).

      Fabulous that you had a spark of inspiration while wandering off the beaten track! I love that image. Did you get your flash down on paper like you wanted to?

      I played with babies, dinnered with my friend, watched some youtube interviews of a couple of my favorite authors, and tried (unsuccessfully) to catch up with my favorite blogs. Striving to soak in creative energy and all that :)

    2. I'm sure copying by hand will be fine, I'll email you if I need the links. Thanks.

      I got some of it down on paper but there is so much its going to take some time. I have written some notes so hopefully I will remeber it when I get to it ;-)

      Thanks for the tip below, hmmm who can I coerce into babysitting???? The only time I find to write is dinner hours or around midnight when even the house is asleep.

  2. Ahhhh - I love it! My inlaws are coming to visit for a week and I have secret hopeful hopes that I'll find some time for me to sit and try to WRITE! But I have no idea where to start! And no time in my current life to find ways to start! Smiling - so I plan to leave this browser tab open to come back to it once the grandparents are completely caught up with my little buckaroos.

    1. Yay for writing again, and for grandparents/parents/family/friends who help accomodate you so you can. I'm so glad this post has helped you in any way with that. *Shouts "Goal!" emphatically*


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