Characterization and Me

Characterization is a total pain in the bohunkus.  Note: I’m not sure how to spell bohunkus so I’ve gone phonetic with it.  The amazing character Hank, as in Hank the Cow Dog, could probably tell you how to spell it but he’s amazing.  My characters?  A bit less amazing. Or at least that’s how it feels at the moment.

Most of what I’ve been working on lately is nonfiction so when I do pull together the time to work on Fiction, it takes a moment.  Switching gears.  Re-aligning my sights.

Lately I’ve been working on a picture book that was critiqued by the amazing agent, Bree Ogden.  Amazing.  Her critique made total sense.  My characterization just didn’t sing.  Not a huge surprise since I’m much better at plot.  But she wants it to sing so back I go to hum along until I find just the right notes.

Bree suggested that I read some Fancy Nancy.  So I did.  Nancy did many fancy, glittering, sparkly things.

Then I sat down to work on my manuscript.  Now Felicity likes a certain amount of flash, but glitter?  Not so much.  Yet everything she did happened ala Nancy.

So I read more books with strong characters.  Olivia. Skippyjon Jones.  Now I had a glittery sparkly kid wearing a pig nose and speaking in a fake Mexican accent.  Unacceptable.

I was whining about . . . I mean discussing my problem with a writing buddy when she gave me the look.  My mother had the look and seems to have willed it to this particular friend.  “You did a workshop on characterization.  Why not try some of the characterization exercises you told us to do?”

Ummmmm.   Cause I’m a bit thick?

Taking that gentle nudge to heart, I sat down on the sofa with my notebook.  I brainstormed Felicity’s favorite colors, what she likes to read, favorite foods, a bit about her friends, how she relates to people, and the “inner” Felicity differs from what people see.   Then I came across a blog post by agent Donald Maass.  He wrote about character strengths and flaws.  I’m going to work through this today or tomorrow and then I think I may know enough about Felicity for her to come across as Felicity and not FancyOliviaJon Jones.

–SueBE