Mary Kay Tuberty
July 18, 2019
I’ve become interested in MeTV. I love the old shows. My favorite is Columbo. This is an unusual choice for me, because I never watched the show when it first came out. I don’t enjoy mystery, crime, or horror shows. They keep we awake all night.
Why Columbo? I’ve become fascinated by the Lieutenant Columbo character. He is such an oddball. He wears an old wrinkled raincoat and carries his lunch around with him and eats it in his beat-up car. He talks about his wife all the time, which I like. I want to know more.
And why my other favorite, Perry Mason? On this show, it’s not the lawyer I’m interested in, it’s his secretary, Della Street. She looks at Perry with such love and he seems oblivious. She is very attractive. Why does she pine for him? I want to know more. What does she do away from the office? Does she have family? Or, other romantic interests?
Why do I care about these two characters? And, are the characters in my stories as compelling? I thought about these questions for days. A week passed, and still I couldn’t figure it out.
About five this morning, I awoke with the answer right before me. If I could determine what those two writers did to make me so interested in Lt. Columbo and Della Street, I could employ their techniques and the quality of my writing would increase by leaps and bounds.
I think the characters in my stories are believable and interesting, but I’m not satisfied. I worry they are so ingrained in my own mind and heart I don’t get them on paper well enough. Searching for a solution, I developed a checklist for character development:
- Physical description
- What makes the character happy/energized or sad/discouraged?
- What are the character’s likes and dislikes?
- What is the character’s relationship to his/her friends, family, acquaintances? Is the character kind and thoughtful, cold and cruel, or a little of both?
- What are the character’s ambitions, vocation, interests, hobbies?
- Does the character possess an inquiring, studious mind or is he/she dull and disinterested?
I’m moving closer to good characters, but I’m still not satisfied. How do I make the hero/heroine interesting enough and compelling enough that my readers are fascinated by them and pull for them to succeed?
I’ve decided to create a class for myself on developing characters, not just reading a few articles, mind you, but a full sixteen-week course, perhaps with a test at the end.
To begin, I am assembling my favorite how-to books for fiction writers:
- On Writing Well, by William Zinsser
- The Art and Craft of Writing Christian Fiction, by Jeff Gerke.
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King
- The Emotions Thesaurus, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
In addition, I would like to invest in a Great Courses’ 24-lecture, DVD series, Writing Great Fiction. I’ve used Great Courses lectures in the past (expensive, but the clearance sales can be as much as seventy-five percent off) and I’ve found them to be excellent.
I’m open to suggestions for additions or changes to my self-assembled study plan. In any case, cheer me on as I make this self-taught journey and watch for the sizzling characters that develop in my future best sellers.
Mary Kay Tuberty
The Carty Sisters Series
Keeper of Coin
Keeper of Trust
Keeper of the Flame