Thursday, February 23, 2012


Have you ever read a book where one of the characters (probably the main character) just seems to stick with you? You find yourself thinking about him or her as you fall asleep, marveling at her courage, admiring his tenacity or including a blip in your night-time prayers that they make the book into a movie so you can see the character in real life? If so, you have been a victim of author-manipulation. Memorable characters are not accidents. They are deliberately created to stick with readers. Authors expend a ton of time developing their characters with quirks, qualities, and back-story far beyond what shows up in their stories. If you are a writer, you may be struggling to create these good characters.

Numerous books about character development have been published. You can find scores of questionnaires and interviews you can hold with your characters in your head or on paper to find out what makes them tick; what makes them THEM. Then you can use this information to write your story. Even if you don’t directly use all of the information you learn, the work will pay off because the better YOU know your character, the better you can write about them. One interesting take on this character interview process is addressed in the book, “What Would Your Character Do?” by Eric Maisel, Ph.D. and Ann Maisel (Writer’s Digest Books, © 2006). The book presents over two dozen scenarios into which you virtually plunk your character and answer questions about what he or she would do in that particular situation. Following the questions are explanations of what that specific action most likely tells you about his personality and deeper motivations. The authors also provide additional questions for reflection to help you delve even deeper into your character’s – well – character.

If you want to learn more about character development, plan to attend the “Who Was That Masked Man?” session at Midwest WritingCenter’s March 24, 2012 Pen In Hand Mini Writing Conference from 9:15 a.m. to 11 a.m. in downtown Davenport, Iowa.

Rebecca McKanna, corporate communications writer and fiction author, will teach the session. Rebecca McKanna's fiction has appeared in the New Delta Review literary journal. She has also taken graduate-level courses from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Rebecca says, “I think creating memorable characters starts with creating multi-dimensional characters. It's nuance that makes a character memorable. In the workshop we'll do activities that can help spur this process, as well as examine successful and unsuccessful examples of characters from literature.”

Discounts for this and the three other Pen In Hand sessions are offered for early registrants, members and bulk buyers. Visit and click on the Pen In Hand link under the “Events & Opportunities” tab or call 563/324-1410 for more information and to learn how to register.

-By Jodie Toohey (

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