Sentences can be passive or active depending on how you construct them. Characters too, can be passive or active based on how you write them. Are they watching things happen around them or are they doing something? By creating strong desires in your characters you automatically compel them into action.
“Characterization is not divorced from plot, not a coat of paint you slap on after the structure of events is already built. Rather, characterization is inseparable from plot.” —Nancy Kress (www.writerswrite.co.za)
An actor gets their script, and after their first read through or so they start to beat the script. What is a beat? A beat is typically associated with a script. Beats are components that make up a scene. When an actor is speaking their lines, beats are usually divided by the actor’s pauses. In those moments, the actor can change tactic via mood, motivation or revelation. An actor will identify each beat in their dialogue and then ascribe what motivates that beat which then in turn helps them decide how they will deliver their line.
By beating your scenes, it requires you to direct the story and characters to constantly act, react and change tactics to try and achieve their goals. This prevents a character from being static as a passive witness of events.
In order to beat the character appropriately, it is important to identify their desires. Designing a character’s desire has its own infrastructure. You can search online and find an endless supply of worksheets and check lists that help you pick attributes for characters. Strong characters the reader can connect to are built off of strong motivations and personal tastes.
Give characters a surface desire and then ascribe them a root desire. These desires can sometimes be at odds with each other.
For instance the character can have a surface to desire to be left alone to live a quiet peaceful life, but they are forced to engage when a society of two foot tall people have decided the character is destined to be their king. The character may keep trying to extricate himself from these duties, but his root desire to prevent injustice compels him to take the position to save the small people from their 2.5 foot oppressors of a similar race.
This is also a way to construct your characters’ strengths.
Beating scenes, adding inherent conflict within your character’s strong desires, will help you avoid creating a character whose personality resembles a bowl of mashed potatoes.
Remember to take the time to read some of the past winners from Writers of the Future, and there you find will strong characters that push the story forward, instead of weak characters that get pushed around by the story.
Guest blogger Peter J. Wacks is a bestselling cross-genre writer. He has worked across the creative fields in gaming, television, film, comics, and most recently, when not busy editing, he spends his time writing novels and there are over 3.5 million copies of his stories in circulation.
Co-author Holly Roberds wrote a science fiction/romance trilogy before being told to scrap the lot of it. Since then, she has hunted for all information about the craft of writing, honing and evolving her skills. Roberds is currently applying all hard-won knowledge to rewriting her novels, and getting her short stories published. She is also a professional freelance article/blog writer, singer/songwriter, and never has less than five jobs at one time.