Simply Writing | CHARACTERISATION THROUGH NARRATION

In Creative Writing, Guest Articles, OWLS by RWA Blog Coordinator10 Comments

In light of my upcoming RWA OWL and last month’s RWA and RWNZ conference workshops, I thought it would be good to do a short blog on CHARACTERISATION THROUGH NARRATION.

What is CHARACTERISATION THROUGH NARRATION?

It’s the essence of crafting well-developed, 3-dimensional, believable characters.

When you write using CHARACTERISATION THROUGH NARRATION, you reveal your characters through your story, and allow your story to unfold through your characters’ POVs.

Sounds complex, right?

It’s really not that complicated once we take a closer look and begin to break the process down into bite-sized pieces.

1. CHARACTER MAP

The basis to any good story starts with the characters. The same goes for CHARACTERISATION THROUGH NARRATION. 

The more developed your characters, the easier it is to incorporate CHARACTERISATION THROUGH NARRATION. To do this, we can devise a character map using the 6 elements of characterisation:

This doesn’t need to be a diagram. It can be bullet points, a table or spreadsheet, any format which works for you. What’s important is to capture as much information as you can. The more detail we incorporate into this map, the more 3-dimensional and believable our characters will be. 

Once this is complete, we can move onto the next step . . . 

2. GOAL, MOTIVATION, CONFLICT (GMC)

GMC is the lynchpin of strong, believable characterisation. 

GMC gives our characters direction. It injects meaning into their every action, decision and reaction, providing purpose, as well as the foundation of a journey that becomes our very story.

Without strong, believable GMC, your story’s lead roles have no ‘drive’ and you are left high and dry with no story to tell.

In short, GMC can be broken down as follows:

  • GOAL – what does your character want?
  • MOTIVATION – why do they want it?
  • CONFLICT – what internal (emotional) and external (physical) barriers are preventing them from getting it?

Once you’ve developed both internal (emotional) and external (physical) GMC for your central characters, you’re ready to take the next step towards CHARACTERISATION THROUGH NARRATION . . .

3. IDENTIFY CHARACTER TRAITS YOU CAN USE TO DEEPEN CHARACTERISATION

Some character traits can make more of an impact and reveal more about characterisation than others. By identifying these before you begin writing, you will write with an awareness that allows you to incorporate characterisation into your narration with more ease. 

How can we identify these traits?

Here’s a few questions to ask yourself as you decide:

  • UNIQUE: Does this trait represent the character in a fresh and unique way?
  • STANDOUT: Will this trait make my character stand out amongst other similar characters?
  • GMC: Which of my character’s traits are linked closely to their GMC? GMC-linked traits tend to generate more emotion and inject your narration with more ‘punch’.

Think about Harry Potter. His scar is unique, the reason he has it makes him stand out amongst other characters (Voldemort’s inability to harm him without feeling great pain) and his GMC is highly emotional (his parents died so he could live). 

Think about how much stronger and memorable your characters could be if you inject the same amount of interest value into them.

4. APPLY THE 4 ELEMENTS OF NARRATION TO YOUR CHOSEN CHARACTER TRAITS 

To really blend characterisation into our narration with any kind of continuity, we must first understand the elements of narration. What are they and what are their roles in storytelling?

1. DIALOGUE (includes internal monologue)

= a conversation, a verbal interaction with another character or thoughts within our central character’s head.

2. EXPOSITION

= a detailed explanation or account. This is often the ‘telling’ portion of our story.

3. ACTION

= doing something for a particular purpose (I love this definition. Purposeful action is meaningful action)

= All the important and exciting things that are happening in a situation. This is the fast-paced good stuff.

4. DESCRIPTION

= an account explaining what a person, object or event are or what they look like.

Once you understand the power of using these elements to drive your characterisation, your writing of characters will be rich and colourful, and your characters will be more believable than ever before. 

If you’d like to explore CHARACTERISATION THROUGH NARRATION in more detail, make sure you sign up for my October OWL. Details and registration can be found here:

If you’d like to explore CHARACTERISATION THROUGH NARRATION in more detail, make sure you sign up for my October OWL. Details and registration can be found here:

https://www.trybooking.com/BACRP

And that’s all folks!

I hope I’ve given you food for thought on how to reveal your characters through the narration elements in your story. If you have any questions, make sure you post them in the comments beneath the blog and I’ll be sure to get back to you.

Firstly, thank you all for coming back this month. I really appreciate every one of you reading, commenting and sharing my posts. 

Once again, I’m offering one lucky commenter a half hour skype session to discuss anything writing related. It could be your query, your synopsis or 300 words from your current work in progress. We could even discuss how you can incorporate CHARACTERISATION THROUGH NARRATION into your story. Yes, you heard right. We get to chat, face-to-face—or computer screen to computer screen—about whatever it is about your writing you’d like to discuss.

To enter the draw, please comment below and share the most surprising or useful thing you’ve learned since reading my Simply Writing blogs. Any ideas on what you’d like to see featured on future blogs will be gratefully received. Or perhaps you’d like to share how you’ll start to incorporate CHARACTERISATION THROUGH NARRATION into your current WIP.

Any and all comments welcome! I love reading your feedback and input each month ☺ and much as this blog isn’t set up for notifications, I always ALWAYS answer your comments. So make sure you pop back to check my replies ☺

If you’d like extra chances to win, share links to this blog on any or all social media sites. Tag me so I know you’ve shared, and the more shares, the more times I’ll place your name in the draw.

A name will be drawn in a week’s time, around Thursday 19th September and winners will be notified on the blog, so keep your eyes and ears peeled. Make sure you revisit the blog or watch my facebook posts to see when I’ve picked a winner ☺

Thanks so much to you all for stopping by. Have a fabulous month, and I’ll see you all again in October ☺

Michelle xx


Michelle Somers

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Michelle Somers is a bookworm from way back. An ex-Kiwi who now calls Australia home, she’s a professional killer and matchmaker, a storyteller and a romantic. Words are her power and her passion. Her heroes and heroines always get their happy ever after, but she’ll put them through one hell of a journey to get there.

She lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her real life hero and three little heroes in the making, and Emmie, a furry black feline who thinks she’s a dog. Her debut novel, Lethal in Love won the Romance Writers of Australia’s 2016 Romantic Book of the Year (RuBY) and the 2013 Valerie Parv Award. The second in her Melbourne Murder series, Murder Most Unusual was released in February 2017.

In between books, she runs workshops – both face-to-face and online – for writers wanting to hone their craft. The first book in her Simply Writing Series, Simply Synopsis, is changing the way writers craft this vital, yet perplexing, writing tool. And through her Simply Writing series of blogs, she hopes to simplify so much more.

You can find out all about Michelle, her adventures and her books at her website or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.

Comments

  1. That’s a really interesting Elements of Characterisation map! Have you thought about developing that into a blank worksheet (PDF format probably) that could be filled in for each character?
    If you want any help with it, hit me up 😛

    1. Hi Catherine
      Thanks so much for the offer 🙂 And the compliment 🙂 🙂
      I have a blank worksheet which I use for my courses, but this one was a screenshot from one of my workshops where I wanted to show the readers what to include for each characterization element.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      Michelle xxx

  2. I’m getting in early because 30 minutes with you would be gold. Your simply synopsis is fab. I struggle with synopses and now I have a much better idea of how to structure them. This one is a great reminder, too, re characterisation. My stories are character driven… but actions do happen! Good reminder to keep these close to GMC and to use them to reveal more about the character. Thank you 🙂

    1. Aww, thank you Lexi. What a lovely thing to say.
      I’m so glad you found Simply Synopsis helpful 🙂
      As for the importance of making sure GMC drives every action, every reaction, everything your character says, does and thinks… this is critical for writing 3-D believable characters. So glad you’re going to keep this in mind.
      Thanks so much for stopping by and wishing you heaps of luck for the draw 🙂
      Michelle xxx

  3. Oh this is great stuff! It really ties in with some Deep PoV work I’m studying at the moment. Can I second Catherine’s ask for a worksheet?

    And Lexi, Michelle’s point on Purposeful Action also works well with Damon Suede’s notion of grounding a character in a particular verb. (Eg. Protect/ Prevail / Challenge) If you lock that down early, you can riff off it throughout the novel, making all their actions character driven!

    Love these blog posts. Short but powerful.

    1. Thanks Karina!
      And I love your reference to Damon Suede and using a verb to describe them and using this same verb to deepen characterization. Wonderful! That’s a fab example of characterization through narration at work.
      Thanks for supporting the blog every month!
      Michelle xxx

  4. Hi Michelle,

    Wow!

    My first time ever reading one of your blog posts. I was encouraged to join RWA by Savannah Blaize.

    It was crammed with info, punchy to the mark. Enjoyed it immensely. The graphic was clear, a little piece of writing gold.

    Would be really appreciative of any info in future blogs on historical and fantasy tips, and, your views.

    It may have been the first blog of yours I’ve ever read, though it certainly won’t be the last. Hooked! Looking forward to all future little goldmines and snippets you share.

    Lovely to meet you, thank you, Elizabeth Rooney

    1. Hi Elizabeth
      Wow, thank you so much for your lovely words.
      Yes, I know Savannah – she’s a good friend and her advice re. joining RWA was spot on. It’s a fab way of learning more about writing craft as well as mixing with like-minded people (and forging some wonderful friendships).
      I’m glad you enjoyed the blog. Make sure you go back and read my earlier ones. There’s a lot of fab info you might find helpful.
      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.
      Best of luck in the draw!
      Michelle xxx

  5. A short but sweet post chock full of great info yet again! There is so much depth to mastering effective characterisation. It’s woven through every layer of the story. I never realised this early on. This blog is a great reminder to be mindful while writing and editing and incorporate characterisation into every aspect of your story. The most successful books seem to do that really well. All the best for your upcoming OWL!

    1. Thanks so much for your lovely feedback. I really appreciate your support every month.
      Thanks for stopping by, and I wish you all the best for the draw!
      Michelle xx

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