Character is Action
Character is action. How do you accomplish this? Does this mean you
have to change the genre you write to suspense or thrillers? No, it
To have a character in action, you turn their normal world upside
This is where your story begins, the moment of change, of threat to
their peaceful world. Using the character charts/profile from the
last lesson, you'll have an idea of how this person you've created
will react to threat.
Start with the threat and the character's response to it. By shaking
up the character's norm, this will bring out the internal and
external GMC and begin the process of plot.
The threat doesn't always have to be life threatening. You can make
the change unpleasant. Tossing in something to mess up the
character's status quo doesn't always mean a life and death threat.
Knowing your character gives you the tools that will knock them off
kilter, disturb their ordered world.
Example: If the heroine is terrified of big dogs have her walk into
her house and there in middle of her kitchen is a Great Dane waiting
for her, tail thumping in happiness and a puddle of drool on the
To make this really pertinent to the story, have her returning home
from the hospital from a dog bite. Now, we can see how having a dog
in her kitchen affects her internally and externally. You've just
made this personal with action needed right now.
This dog could be the sweetest, slobbery creature, but to the heroine
it isn't. What action will she take? This was a quick example of
character and plot, but I think you can see what I mean. What will
she do the person who had the nerve to bring a dog in her house in
the first place? How does she feel? By asking questions like these,
you've begun the journey of plot.
Something else to keep in mind, events such as marriage, divorce,
abuse, fear of heights, kids, being fired from a job, tragedy from
the elements…all signify change in a person's life. I'm sure you can
think of many more examples than what I've listed here. Any of this
would affect how the character would view their world. These elements
can also be a threat to the character.
Jack M. Bickham says, "Nothing is more threatening than change."
What keeps readers turning the pages, waiting to buy our next book?
Readers are hooked by characters they can care about and the action
this character takes to achieve the story goals. They want to find
out what happens.
An active character is a character who wants something so desperately
they will take action to get it. It also will make the reader turn
the pages to discover what will happen to your hero and heroine.
Passive characters bleed into the white page. Readers want to be
entertained and by providing interesting, three dimensional
characters this will happen.
We draw upon our experiences to create plot. This is why writers look
for universal plot themes when they write. It's okay if you don't
know what the universal theme is of your book. For romance, many
times it is love conquers all.
Another way to look at character and plot comes from "What If?" by
Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter:
How a character handles a situation by the way they choose to act, or
not act in some cases, moves the story forward into plot. The
particular situation your character is in grows from the beginning
point where their life is shifted from normal. Then complications
rise, each time escalating finally reaching the crisis point.
Throughout this process, the character's self-concept is revealed and
threatened which will blend right into your plot.
Action creates plot.
Without tension/conflict, you have no plot. (Jack Bickham)
Without action there is no character, and without action there is no
plot. (Ronald B. Tobias, 20 Master Plots, page 55).
I've heard many writers say they can't be mean to their characters. I
used to be one of those writers and it took me years to get over it.
What helped me to go beyond this problem was learning HOW to plot and
HOW it affects the characters.
Debra Dixon from: GMC –Goal, Motivation and Conflict: If your
character doesn't take action right now, the urgency fizzles. The
pace screeches to a halt and you risk having the reader putting down
your book and never picking it up again.
In romance novels falling in love is a conflict the character wants
to avoid. Falling in love should impact the goals and choices of the
hero and heroine. In fact, the romance is conflict.
Why can't they fall in love? Will this affect the character
internally, externally or both? If so why? This is an important
element to the plot as romance writers. This adds lovely, sexual
tension not to be confused with the actual act of sex itself. The
fantastic push, pull between the hero and heroine that sizzles the
The character profile/charts in the last lesson will help you see
what elements will affect the character and give you ideas on how to
add plot to the story.
The magic words for me are "What If?" This gets my creative thoughts
flowing and I write down what comes to mind. When the list starts, I
don't stop no matter how dumb it might be. Taking a closer look
afterward there are suggestions that can help add a nice plot twist
When ideas come for the character chart later, have a pack of posty
notes handy and slap it on the page. You can go back later and retype
or whatever process you feel works.
Don't forget that people watching is an activity that can provide
extra notes when you need help filling out the chart. Have a notepad
handy to jot down what you see or hear. Watch body language, tone of
voice, how people walk, habits, dress, how they deal with those
Take those notes and make a file so you can go back and pull the
When a character is making a decision; be sure you have consequences
for the actions they take. This starts the character on the road to
personal change. By the end of the story the main characters should
grow, become better than they were at the beginning of the book.
The difference between Plot and Story
Tobias from 20 Master Plots: Plot involves the reader in the game of
why? Plot is not story. Story only makes the reader curious of what
will happen next.
Write a paragraph or two to show these character and plot elements.
Create a character (or use one if it you already have something), in
a situation where opposing forces are at work?
What does your character want? How will the decisions he/she makes
propel the story forward?
The purpose of exercise 1 is to show how plot is driven by the
Why not try writing a scene from the hero's point of view, then the
heroine's point of view from what you've learned in this section.
Sometimes just changing the point of view character is all you need
to get back on track with your plot.
<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
This is meant to be a reply in lesson 2 but I can't find it.
<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
<o:p></o:p>I think writing in layers is the best way to get results, but I also like to know how the story ends before I begin otherwise I do flounder.
I write slowly as well. This is bad for me. I tend to stay inside a scene, revel in the 500 words or so – play with them, polish etc- and often can't bring myself to leave. Stops me moving the story forward.
That's why I liked the NaNo experience of getting 50,000 words down in 30 days. This novel, I'm working now is the very rough NaNo 1st draft
But I haven't written a word of this novel since 18<SUP>th</SUP> July. I'm scared I'll lose interest and I did love it. So, I'm looking for something to spur me on.
I liked your exercise about listing the character traits in lesson 1.
Thanks for telling me about the plot doctor site. I've added it to favourites.
Have you heard of this very comprehensive site. Been going for years. Last updated 28<SUP>th</SUP> August 2008.
Alicia Rasley is a Romance Writers of America Winner (whatever that means)
She really knows her craft.
On the left is Archives of Articles of the Month.
That's the section I love. All to do with plotting, characterization, themes etc.
Now I'll take a look at lesson 3.
Originally Posted by Red Dragon
I'm familiar with Alicia Rasley and LOVE her.
I'm a member of Romance Writers of America. It's a professional organization people who write in the romance genre join to stay on top of what is going on in the publishing industry. There is a yearly conference held, a contest for unpublished writers (The Golden Heart) and one for published authors.
To join any of the RWA chapters you must be a member of RWA first.
NaNo: I did it for my first time last year. I set a goal but not the 50,000 because that was way too much.
I did manage to get some done on a novella and I was okay with that.
I'm probably going to try it again this year. Whatever I manage to do will be fine.
You manuscript: When you sit down to work on it think about what made it exciting to begin with. Is it the hero, the heroine, or maybe the villain?
I think you'll be surprised at how much great stuff you'll find when you go back and read what you have written. New ideas and subplots may pop up as well.
Keep a tablet or notepad handy if the ideas start coming while your reading. Write down the page number so you can find it easily later on.
I hope I've helped.
So you are a NaNoWriMoer too. I have three :wacko::wacko::wacko: Winner's Certificates framed on my wall beside my desk. I'm very proud of the achievement. It took incredible perseverance, but I did it. It's like running a marathon, dragging yourself to the line, finding sentences when I thought there are no words left in my brain.
Thank heavens for the others on the forum who urged me on watching my green bar grow. Everyone should do it -not just writers- it's wonderful self discipline.
Now to apply it in the real world -that's a bit harder.
Regarding the ms. I have read through it but linger over the parts I like. I might need to write some of them out of order -like exercises - that might work and jot down notes, as you say.
Polly, here in Australia it is Fathers' Day tomorrow and my whole family will be here so I won't be turning on my computer at all, but on Monday I'll tackle your exercise. Thanks for posting it.
Hope you and your family have a wonderful time together. I'm looking forward to your post Monday.
Sorry for the no-show today. I've been out all day and tonight had crits to do - still way behind. So my exercise challenge had to go on hold. Will try to get to it tomorrow. I'm going to attempt it with Scene/ Sequence technique and try to incorportate the see/does MR units as well. I have a scene in mind between the dragon queen and three witches she hopes to manipulate.
Thank you, we had a lovely family picnic and the weather stayed good - windy but dry.
If you can get to the exercise fine, if not I understand.
Let me know if you have any questions.
<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p> Hello Polly,</o:p>
<o:p>At last after weeks of procrastination you have me writing some of my fantasy. Thank you!smilies/1poke.gif. I needed the push.</o:p>
<o:p>This is the exercise I undertook relating to character/action and plot/conflict + sensory stimuli followed by internal and external response.</o:p>
Three witches clad in black robes grabbed their besoms from against a lone cedar and took to the sky. They rode straight towards Queen Lilith.
A fine snack they'd make, Lilith thought. Saliva dripped from her parted lips, but she must resist. So, Goldfist, the postman had kept his word and prepared these witches for her visit. Nevertheless, a dragon-queen coming from so deep inside Pravlica must be a terrifying site for witches. Their courage surprised her.
The witches flanked her like beetles beside a corpse flower. She scowled at them, raised the bronze frill on her neck and extendied her wings and tail. She blew a shaft of flame to emphasise her majesty then allowed the tiny creatures in black pointed hats to escort her to the clearing in front of their crooked little house.
<o:p></o:p>Her four feet hit the ground at once. The earth shook to the musical clang of her scales. Dust billowed around her. Unaccustomed to hot dry dirt, Lilith sneezed and blew the gritty cloud away. She would leave this ugly place as soon as these feeble witches served her purpose; the sooner the better.
The witches huddled together beside an outdoor cauldron.
Perhaps they were afraid of her. They should be. She boomed her demand. "What I want from you is a cape of poison to protect and bring adoration to the wearer. I want you to weave me a baby's cloak.
The eldest witch straightened the crumpled hat that teetered on her head as she slowly approached Lilith. "Welcome to the borderlands Majesty. Dragons rarely venture this far from Pravlica. Goldfist, the gnome, said you needed our skill to create an enchanted gift. He didn't tell us you wanted something for your dragon princess?
"Did I say anything about a dragon?" Lilith snapped. "I want the cape for my elf." The witch's surprised expression irritated her. She turned up her top lip. "Simply do as I say. Ask no questions, if you value your liife."
The second witch removed her hat and revealed matted red hair. She clutched the hat tightly in front of her, but remained beside the cauldron. "Surely for our service we deserve more than our lives, Dragon. Dead we cannot serve you. We expect a practical reward."
"Reward?" The cheek of these mortals, but Lilith hadn't thought about rewards. Perhaps she should have listened when Goldfist mentioned the idea of payment. He seemed to be a liaison between the creatures of Reality and Make-believe.
"We are three western witches who feature in rhymes. Our appeal diminishes with every new generation of children who gather behind that boundary …" the red haired witch pointed to a tall thorny hedge. "Goldfist promised, if we do as you ask, you would grant us the right to travel away from Meja, this busy border town, far from Reality and move further inside Make-believe where we will gain favour and strength; where our fame will grow and live forever."
Lilith shook her head. "Are you mad? Witches don't live forever. Nor do dragons. Elves are the only immortals in my world."
"If you want our help, O Mighty Queen, grant our desire," the eldest said. "The children speak of fabulous witches in real stories like the ones in Hansel and Gretel and Snow White and the Wizard of Oz. These witches have immortalized themselves. We seek the fame that lasts forever. We desire nothing less.
For the first time in her life, Lilith knew what it meant to be challenged. She could squash these little black bugs under one foot, but she needed that cloak. Without it, her plan to fool King Envious and regain his approval would fail. "Very well," she said with dignity. She could promise them anything, she wasn't obliged to deliver. "Now proceed with the weaving."
The eldest witch stepped backwards but the youngest one, barely more than a child, hitched her robe and mounted her besom. She flew in circles around Lilith's head. "We need a special spider's web, but we have no spider right now."
Infuriated, Lilith stood on her hind legs. She swished her tail across the ground, deliberately spraying dirt in the witches' eyes."If you need a spider, then get one!"
The witch on the broomstick zoomed faster and closer. "We'll take your order and the postman shall deliver your baby's new cloak in one week from today," she cried.
<o:p>Lilith</o:p> grabbed the flying girl around her middle to hold her still. She pushed her snout into the young witch's face and breathed her hot charcoal breath. "What?"
"The postman -- he might know -- where to find a spider. He lives close by," the youngster whispered, unable to hide the quiver in her voice."
Lilith flung the witch and the broomstick into the air. "Stop talking. Act! Do not return without the spider. You have one hour."
As she watched the witch fly once around the cedar tree and disappear into the grey woods, Lilith allowed herself one long sigh. She'd won. "One hour," she repeated and withdrew to the bank beside a thin ribbon of water. She folded her wings above her head and relaxed the frill at her neck.
The two remaining witches frowned and whispered together.
They didn't bother her. She coiled her tail, rested her head on a rock but kept one eye open, just a slit. #
Nice job of blending the senses and showing.
Good character and action. I can see the plot and conflict unfolding.
Love that the witches stood up to the Queen and are bargaining for what they deserve. I'd love to see what they do when the Queen fails to deliver. LOL
I'm so happy you've started to write again. This sounds like a really fun story to work on.
I love the dragon!
Thank you Polly,
You got me writing again. I've almost finished chapter three. That's a big deal for me.
I kept in mind the elements of your lesson 4 as I proceeded. I'll go over there and chat about that now.
I love talking about the writing process. It really is the most fascinating topic. The trouble is, it's hard for me to find someone to talk to because new writers don't get it and authors think they don't need it. :TroutSlap: lol.