Book Reviews

Building Believable Characters

The Writer’s Digest Sourcebook for Building Believable Characters, by Marc McCutcheon is one of the many useful resource books put out by Writer’s Digest Books.

There are many building blocks for writers when it comes to crafting the foundation for stories. Creating characters is one of the most crucial elements writers must develop. Without characters, there is no story. However, many writers are uncertain about how to go about creating characters and bring them to life on the page.

Building Believable Characters offers great advice from other writers as well as a character questionnaire. The questionnaire is in-depth and asks the writer to fill in such information on their character such as name, weight, height, age, body type, physical characteristics, race, religion, gestures, skills, occupation and so much more.

After the questionnaire, there is a chapter titled Character Thesaurus. Under this chapter there are subsequent sections touching on: Face and Body such as complexions, skin types, blemishes, eye type, shape and color, noses, hair, facial hair, body types and so on.

Personality/Identity covers personality traits, bad habits and vices, psychological/psychiatric problems, diseases, disorders, afflictions, hobbies and sports, along with a few others.

Facial expressions, body and vocal language includes anger, anxiety, fear, shock, pain, suspicion, guilt, arrogance, disgust, nausea, happiness, love, grief, drunkenness, laughs, etc.

Dress involves clothing such as dresses, skirts, pants, shirts, coats, undergarments, shoes and boots, hats, sweaters, glasses, fashion styles and others.

Dialects and Foreign Speech runs through Southern (US) Accent Pronunciation Guide, British Expressions and Pronunciations, French and Spanish vocabulary, as well as Italian, German and Russian vocabulary.

Given Names and Surnames from Around the World pulls together names from English, Scottish, Irish, French, Berman, Jewish, Dutch, Spanish, Greek, Italian, Scandinavian, Russian, Arabic, Japanese and Chinese.

The last section covers character homes such as adobes, log homes, bungalow, Cape Cod, Greek Revival, Georgian among many others.

I personally have used Building Believable Characters to create characters from my own novels and short stories. The result was having vivid characters whom I knew more intimately than I thought possible. My characters were alive on the pages and therefore generated more emotion from my readers as they followed my characters’ lives throughout the book.

Marc McCutcheon has an excellent book here and I recommend it for novice writers uncertain of where to begin with building their characters, as well as for professionals looking to juice up their characters.

Writing Tips

Creating a Writer’s Platform

Creating a writer’s platform is a very engaging task. I have my facebook page set up and my Twitter feed going. This blog is the last and the most time consuming to get going. I say that because there are pages to create, customizing the theme I’m using, linking my other social media accounts and then deciding what to write for a blog post. But in the end, I know the time I spend setting things up will pay off in the end.

As I go along and set up my platform, I am reading, Create Your Writer Platform, by Chuck Sambuchino. There is so much information in this book. I’ll give you a break down of what’s inside by adding the table of contents:

The Principles of Platform

Chapter 1: What is platform?

Chapter 2: The Necessity of Platform

Chapter 3: The 12 Fundamental Principles of Platform

Chapter 4: Choosing Your Niche

Chapter 5: Platform for Fiction and Memoir

The Mechanics of Platform

Chapter 6: Platform Avenues: Which Should You Choose?

Chapter 7: Your Website: The Foundation

Chapter 8: Your Blog: The Extension

Chapter 9: Your Newsletter: The Outreach

Chapter 10: Article and Column Writing

Chapter 11: Public Speaking

Chapter 12: Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, and More

Chapter 13: 4 Side Doors to Platform

Author Case Studies

Final Thoughts

In the book, Chuck, even says not to wait until you have finished reading the book before you start building your writer platform. So, that’s what I did. I did NOT wait. Now I haven’t read all of this book yet, but so far it has been helpful.

If you’re working on your writer platform, or just starting out, I recommend this book