Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Character Diamonds Are A Writer's Best Friend

Ah, the character diamond is a gem of a writer's tool; it helps us keep a character "in character" as we write scenes, dialogue, etc. Use it to avoid an editor/critique partner's dreaded response "I don't believe he/she would do that; it's just not like him/her."

I'm going to quote an excellent article by Constance K. Flynn about the Character Diamond. She sums it up best. The link to this fab article is here.

"Primary Strength--In a protagonist this is an admiral trait that forms the backbone of who they are, such as warm and caring, reserved and logical, outgoing leader. In a villain, this will show up in traits such as ruthlessness, lack of self-discipline or paranoia.

Supporting Trait--This is generally an attitude or value such as optimistic, pessimistic,
eager, pragmatic, loyal, etc. Hero or villain, this blends with and supports the primary strength.

Fatal Flaw--In protagonists, this trait is a virtue carried to extremes, best illustrated by the movie the ODD COUPLE. Felix is organized and tidy to the point of being nit-picky, while Oscar's laid-back habits are carried to slobbishness. Traits that have this potential include nurturing (smother-love), leadership (controlling), compassion (excessive sentimentality), independence (inability to cooperate), and there are many more.

Shadow Trait--A secret yearning. This is a trait the protagonist either actively suppresses and is unaware of, or believes he lacks an aptitude for. It is NOT an evil trait as is commonly supposed. For example, an engineer raised by logical thinking/intuition denying and immensely practical parents would probably suppress any inclination toward the arts. If this character had a strong aptitude for music or painting, it would be suppressed. Pair the character up with an artist and you create immediate inner conflict for the character. This is the point of character growth. By allowing the shadow to emerge the character heals him or herself.

The supporting trait and fatal flaw is in harmony with the primary strength, while the shadow is in contradiction. The fatal flaw is what the character must overcome in order to make a commitment to the other protagonist. The shadow trait is what allows this to occur. ..."

Keeping this in mind, here is Jenna's Character diamond:

Primary Strength: Loyal and Responsible.

Supporting Trait: Traditionalist and Reserved.

Fatal Flaw: Selfishly Stubborn (with her heart) and Afraid of Change.

Shadow Trait: Jenna wants to experience life, with someone she loves, instead of watching it by herself.

And of course, here is Duncan's Character Diamond:

Primary Strengths: Honorable and Leadership

Supporting Traits: Modernist and Outgoing.

Fatal Flaw: Manipulative and Emotionally Stunted.

Shadow Trait: Duncan wants to feel grounded. Like he belongs somewhere, with someone who loves him and he can love in return.

By looking at this, I would not write a scene where Jenna decide to throw herself a "don't you wish you were me" party and invite everyone to she knows to show off. Likewise, Duncan wouldn't sit wrapped up in a blanket, sipping tea, moping about a problem that's come up.

With that said, IF I wanted to have a scene stand out, I could have the characters do something that is not in their diamond for emphasis. Neat, huh?

For more info, look at the Character Diamond links under my Writer's Resources. Well worth a peek.


Sally said...

Great blog, Melissa! You have really done your homework! And your links! Very resourceful.

I can't wait to see how this all plays out!

Smiles, Sally

Melissa Leavitt said...

Thanks Sally! :)

I can't wait to see how this all plays out too. Hopefully with a published book!

*sighing with goofy smile on my face*


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