True to my word in yesterday’s post, the last few days I’ve begun my work day by reading a chapter or two in some of my favorite “How-To” writing books. So far, it’s been a valuable exercise, particularly in the area of character development.
Last Thursday, I wrote about who my characters were based on. But that doesn’t address who they really are. What drives them? What experiences have they had that continue to impact them throughout their lives? What are their quirks? The answers to these questions help to create vibrant, compelling characters that, as they say, jump off the page.
One of the key questions I’ve been working on is defining my characters’ inner conflicts. It is an important part of making your characters memorable, and frankly, I don’t think I’ve given it enough thought, even with my main character, Isabel Wilde. I feel like I have a clear idea of who she is and what her desires are, but how am I making that clear to the reader?
First, what is inner conflict? It’s when a person wants two or more things that are mutually exclusive, or, put another way, two opposite desires that are equally strong.
A simple example would be a guy who hates his job, but can’t quit if he wants to make the payments on his expensive dream car. What will he choose–the awful job or the cool car? Hopefully, your characters will display less shallow forms of inner conflict, but you get the idea.
Another example? A woman whose in love with two men: one is boring, but she knows will give her a security life, and the exciting bad boy who will only cause her grief.
Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook has been a great tool for me because the chapters are short and to the point. It also incorporates many examples from published fiction which makes it more interesting than just reading instructional text. It forces me to define Isabel Wilde’s inner conflict, which in the end, will make her a much better character.