The Art of Character: Book, Blurb & Collage

The Art of Character

A collection of phrases and quotes from the book, The Art of Character, written by David Corbett. Image created by me and free to share.

 

During my transition to the new state over the last month or so, I’ve continued hitting the books and eating my greens. The Art of Character, by David Corbett was a delight to read. Honestly, I’ve burned through so many bloody books about writing characters and examining archetypes that it was starting to get repetitive — this book caught me by surprise.

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Image linked to Goodreads.

Corbett offers some fresh perspective about understanding how to craft and build believable characters. Unlike many of books I’ve read, he emphasizes the importance of shaping the character before your build the book. In my experience working with other authors, many go the opposite direction: starting with the story or general plot, then populating it with characters.

The issue, and I’ve seen it happen, is the characters are custom fitted to the story and one dimensional when you plot the story then begin to craft the characters afterwards. They say, “I want a scene where he/she commandeers a pirate vessel then builds a robot out of Pixy Stix, duct tape, and bubble gum…oh, they must be able to knit kitten sweaters too! I better make sure the character has X, Y, and Z traits.”

The book is separated into four main parts: Conceiving the Character, Developing the Character, Roles, and Technique. Each section builds on the previous and provides instruction on how to weave characters into the tapestry of your story. This is bolstered by countless examples from a smattering of different genres.

Speaking of examples, one thing I like to do when I read books on the craft of writing is glance at the bibliography at the back of the book. Corbett’s bibliography is three pages long with about fifty cited sources. That’s a goldmine!

When it comes to character studies, this book has quickly jumped to the top of my go-to pile. I can see it being one I refer to clients and friends alike. If your Amazon trigger finger is itchy, give it a go!

question markThat’s it for today. If you are curious about some of the other writing books I’ve read you can check out a listing of them I made by clicking right here (going to have to update this beast soon), or jump to my Reads section. I’m constantly eating my greens, and I encourage you to do the same. What writing books are you reading? I’d love to hear about it. I’m always looking for more books to devour. Until we cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always—stay sharp!

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7 responses

  1. I find it interesting that a lot of authors you’ve worked with go for plot first and then characters second. It seems counter intuitive to me because most of the time you read a book you’re following (and hopefully rooting for) a character. Do you think that these authors are going plot first in order to really hook and keep readers? Or is it like what you were getting at with authors coming up with a plot but are trying to mold a characters to fit into it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think when many (not all, but some) people brainstorm up an idea for a story they have a rough idea of the character and a more actualized vision of the story. There is a palpable feeling of euphoria for many of the folks I talk to when they share the whiz-bang world, culture, technology, or devilish plot they have whipped up. It seems rarer for me to run into someone who is madly excited to talk about their characters (not that they aren’t confident in the characters, it’s just not what they lead with).

      On a personal note, I know character building is something I often talk about when I work with writers. I usually accompany it with some templates to help them assign more specific values, description, arcs, motivations, and backstory. Even if this info doesn’t make it into the book, dialogue and interactions become stronger when the writer is able to more fully understand where their characters are coming from.

      After I read this book I was thinking about how I write some of my own content, and I do try to focus on different character building concepts and archetypes here on the blog. I thought back to when I wrote a post on World Builder’s Disease, and it struck me that I’ve never heard of Character Builder’s Disease. Coincidence? I think not! Just kidding…it’s likely a coincidence. But much like you pointed out, people care about those characters and writers owe it to the reader to spend just as much time creating complex, believable characters as they do deciding what flora and fauna will cover Planet X.

      Anyways, I’ve produced a long and rambling response. I appreciate you giving the post a read and leaving some thoughts. Happy writing!

      Liked by 2 people

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