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Grow YOUR Great Character and Plot!

Though only 75 minutes long, I plan to pack in simple, yet effective process for developing characters your readers fall in love with during Grow Your Great Character and Plot on Sun., Sept. 13, during the SavvyAuthors 2020 WritersCon.

The live online webinar will be at 10 a.m. Pacific, 12 p.m. Central and 1 p.m. EST. The concepts will be based on my book, Growing Great Characters From the Ground Up: A Thorough Primer for the Writers of Fiction and Nonfiction. ($5.99 Kindle, $7.99 paperback). I followed every lesson for creating Mary Donahue, the 15-year-old protagonist of my novel, Winter Light, which will be published Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press.

I’ve created a great slideshow packed with writing exercises, so plan to come ready to work on your own character.

I’m including the syllabus below to give you a detailed idea of what we’ll cover.

I hope to see you there!

Workshop Syllabus


To demonstrate how, if we writers spend the time necessary to understand what makes our character tick at a deep, internal level, the character will write an exciting plot all the way to a dynamic climax.

What’s Your Story About?

Exercise #1: In one sentence, what’s your story about?

A word about exercises: Don’t panic if you can’t easily complete an exercise. Instead, make a note to start at that point during your next writing session. Sometimes writing one simple sentence can take hours of thought.

You and Your Character

Definition of a character: a living person

Definition of a great character: consistent, believable, admirable

Types of characters and their general purposes (page 22 in GGC):

  1. Protagonist: goes on a journey that leads to an epiphany

  2. Antagonist: opposes the protagonist

  3. Catalyst: jumps the tension by greatly upping the size/severity of an obstacle

  4. Support: supports main character

  5. Side: brief appearance

Exercise #2: In one sentence, what’s your character’s type?

The Defining Detail

A defining detail:

  1. shows the reader what makes a character tick

  2. can be based on a prominent physical characteristic, incident, imagined

  3. blemish, object, what interests you most about the character

  4. must be specific

Exercise #3: In one sentence, what’s your character’s defining detail?

Now Extrapolate

Use the defining detail to reveal:

  1. What the character fears most (internal belief)

  2. What he’s motivated to do (external behavior)

Once readers know what scares the character most, they can understand his motivation and interpret his actions. He’ll strike readers as both consistent in how he views the world and believable in what he does.

Exercise #4: In one sentence, what does your character fear most? In one sentence, based on that fear, what’s he/she motivated to do?

The Five Questions

What defines your character? What’s her greatest fear? What motivates her? What’s her greatest strength (cause for admiration)? What’s her greatest weakness (point of vulnerability?

Exercise #5: In one sentence each, answer the last two questions. (Hint: the last two answers should match.


And obstacle is the same as a conflict. Your character wants to do one thing, but faces the prospect of being forced to do the opposite.

Obstacle/Conflict + Action = Scene

A scene is when your character is in one emotional state, confronts an obstacle/conflict, takes action (he/she is a doer), and as a result changes to another emotional state. Over time, those small changes lead to the character’s final transformation.

Series of Obstacles/conflicts = Plot

Obstacles should increase in size and intensity and drive the character toward the moment she confronts her worst fear (the story’s climax). Each obstacle should be organic, meaning the new conflict/obstacle is a direct result of the previous one.

Exercise #6: Create a list of the obstacles your character encounters. Do they get progressively bigger and more severe?

Conclusion: Game Plan!

Exercise #7: Your next step

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