Celtic Knot work: Weaving Together Characterization and Plotting
Celtic Knotwork: Weaving Together Characterization and Plot
Copyright 2008 Pollyanna Williamson. Not to be used without
I hope you find the information helpful.
Questions and discussion are encouraged.
You may know me by my pen names, Tambra Kendall and Keelia Greer.
I'm published by Red Rose Publishing, Whiskey Creek Press Torrid and Aspen Mountain Press. Two stories are recommended reads.
I've been teaching online classes about four years now. In the past I've taught for Earthly Charms and various RWA chapters.
Also, off and on I've taught at our local college's continuing education department.
So let's get started!
Resources for the course:
Prescription for Plotting by Carolyn Greene "the plot doctor"
Jack M. Bickham: Scene and Structure from Writer's Digest books
Jack M. Bickham: Writing Novels That Sell. Not sure if this is still
Jack M. Bickham: The 38 Most Common Writing Mistakes from Writer's
Dwight Swain: Techniques of the Selling Writer
What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and
GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon published by
First Draft in 30 Days by Karen Wiesner
Character profile questions and interviewing your characters
*Exercise and discussion
Character Charts, Character Profiles and Character Interviews
Discussion: What did you discover about your hero/heroine/villain?
If you tried the character interview did you like it?
Character and plot are tightly bound together. You can't have one
without the other. As the title says woven together like Celtic knot
work. How do you start? I find the character chart an excellent
It lets you see the development of the character as you
fill in the information.
Don't be alarmed if you don't have all the blanks filled out. Later
on you might have to go back and make adjustments or fill in areas
A story is fluid don't be afraid to make changes.
On the other hand, if you change too, much you're going to have huge problems. This is a
matter of balance.
Character Charts and Interviews
If you've filled the character charts and still are having problems
getting to know your main characters, you can do a character
interview. You can have a critique partner or writing friend help.
If you work alone, you can do this on your own, so no worries.
Pretend your sitting across from your character and talk to them. (If someone is working with you, they can ask the questions.)
Write down what you discover. Many authors have overcome plot
obstacles/stumbling blocks this way. Hopefully, this is where you
begin to see how character motivation and plot are connected.
If you don't have a chart, here are two so you can get you started.
Fill out for hero, heroine and villain. If you like, add the
antagonist if it makes him/her clearer in your mind. Since your hero
and heroine must be strong characters, so much your villain.
Character Development Chart
Title of Story:
Publisher: (or target publisher, if you know this)
3 positive, 3 negative
Mannerisms/Habits good or bad:
Character's Greatest Fear:
Character's Greatest Desire:
Self-Concept (How does character see themselves):
Character Profile Questions
Adding Character Profile questions to the character chart can help
you get to know your character on a deeper level. If you don't have a
good grasp of your character, there's a good chance you'll have
trouble when you begin plotting or somewhere down the line things
will begin to unravel.
You could end up having a character that is inconsistent and will
make decisions that don't make sense for the character you've
developed. Yes, characters are supposed to have conflict but when you
set up your hero as quiet and mild manner, then a couple chapters
later he's alpha, some decisions need to be made and GMC: Goal,
Motivation and Conflict needs to be addressed. We'll go over GMC a
little later on and how important it is to characterization and
Characters need to be three dimensional. Don't make perfect heroes
and heroines. The reader can't relate to perfect and neither will the
editor or literary agent. This is fiction and making our characters
larger than life is needed to hold reader interest. Archetypes can
help in developing characterization. Characters that are not well
motivated and developed will stall the plotting process.
Here's a quick rundown of male archetypes. Check used bookstores for
books on the subject. Other websites may give you other definitions
to add to each archetype, so give them a try as well.
The King, Prince Charming, The Warrior, The Scholar, The Rogue, The
Seducer, The Minstrel, The Sidekick
The King: A leader focused on his work. No time for anything else,
which makes him lonely.
Prince Charming: This man enjoys life, usually doesn't want to take
the responsibilities of a higher position but is loyal.
The Warrior: A man with honor usually is outgoing and brave,
confident of himself. Another natural leader. Don't challenge this
guy because he thrives on them.
The Scholar: Analytical and detached emotionally. One who likes to be
in control and alone. Thrives on learning.
The Rogue: He's one who lives his life on the wild side. His past is
buried and overindulgence keeps him from facing reality. Never stays
in one place and is always looking for fun. This guy does like to be
The Seducer: Another party guy but with an agenda of conquest. Like
a con man. His conscience is gone as he focus on only what he wants
and will do whatever it takes to satisfy his goal.
The Minstrel: Artsy type, sometimes the lost soul. He doesn't exude
the charisma like the warrior, prince charming or rogue.
The Sidekick: He has a heart, shows compassion for others. People
like him/love him. Values friends and is helpful.
A note here about Alpha heroes, since they are so popular. Alpha does
not = asshole. Many romance writers don't understand this archtype.
From the fabulous, Alicia Rasley (www.sff.net/people/alicia): Alphas
are men in charge, they are leaders.
Yes, an alpha can have a dark, dangerous past but it's what he does, the choices he's made that makes him Alpha.
He has exceptional social skills, empathy, intuition, a commanding
presence. He's principled and deals with tragedy by seeking control
over the world around him.
Character Profile Chart # 2
Character Profile Questions
Unusual Physical Traits
Style of Dress
Pertinent Background Info
Way of Moving
Unusual Physical Traits
What Does Character Consider Best/Worst Physical Trait
Style of Dress
What Was Character Like as a Child
Family Social/Financial Status
Long Version/Character Profile (Continued)
Character's Current Social/Financial Status
Attitude Toward Money
Past Romantic Relationships
Attitude Toward the Opposite Sex
Housekeeping Abilities or Lack Thereof
Pertinent Health Info
General Personality Profile
Reacts in a Crisis
What Does Character Consider Best/Worst Character Trait? Are they
right? Want/Try to Change?
Darkest Secret/ Deepest Fear
Sees Self as:
Others see character as:
Conflict with Hero/Heroine
Exercise and Discussion:
Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter in What If? Has a great exercise for
their students to help flesh out characters. The Exercise: First
work with a story you have already written, one whose character needs
fleshing out. Writer the character's name at the top of the page.
Then fill in this sentence five or ten times:
He (or she) is the sort of person who ____________________.
After doing this, determine which details add flesh and blood and
heart to your characters. After you have selected the "telling"
detail, work it into your story more felicitously than merely
saying, "She is the sort of person who…" Put it in dialogue, or weave
it into narrative summary. But use it. (What If? Page 45)
I'm looking forward to hearing from you.