Bob Mayer is here!
You know, Bob Mayer the NYTBS, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, USA Today best selling author who’s written more than 45 fiction and non-fiction books and has published in numerous genres that include thriller, science fiction, suspense and romance!
Bob Mayer who has appeared on PBS, NPR, the Discovery Channel, USA Today and has sold millions of books around the world leading the self-publish world as co-owner of “Who Dares Wins Publishing and Write-It-Forward Workshops, who sold over 400,000 eBooks in just 2011 alone!
Yes, that Bob Mayer! And he’s really here!
Oh, am I so excited!
How I ever got Bob Mayer to guest post on my blog I’ll never know. It wasn’t by force that’s for sure since Bob was specially trained in the military at West Point as a Green Beret and is also a Martial Arts expert.
I’ve been taking classes from Bob Mayer’s Write-It-Forward workshops on and off over the last six months, so between you and me, I think Bob just thought it would be a good way to get rid of me. LOL. 🙂
But honestly, all I did was ask! Right Bob?
And even though Bob teaches classes that help authors promote their books, he believes wholeheartedly that Craft must come first. And what is one of the most important things about craft that we all should focus on?
So without further ado, here’s Bob!
Seven Keys To Unforgettable Characters
Think of your favorite book. What’s one of the first things that comes to your mind? I’m going to say…it’s the characters. Most people relate to people, not things.
Characters bring emotion to story, and emotion is what attaches readers to books. It took me a while to truly appreciate this fundamental truth of fiction. I remember meeting Elizabeth George in Denver while she was on book tour about ten years ago. As we dined, she kept talking about characters. How important they are. How characters develops plot, not vice versa.
Here are some of the key lessons I’ve learned about character development over the years, which I cover in more detail in my Write It Forward on-line class on character:
1. “Know the enemy and know yourself. In a hundred battles, you will never be defeated.” Sun Tzu. As I teach in Write-It-Forward, before we can understand other people, even fictional ones, we must understand ourselves. So, yes, if you’re a writer, you need some therapy. It is not normal to sit alone in a dark room and write 100,000 words. You need to understand your point of view on people and things because that’s going to come out when you develop your characters. One of the biggest breakthroughs I had on character was when I realized I was writing a character who was doing things I would never in a million years do, but I was able to have him believe he was doing the right thing.
2. Everyone one has a primary motivator. You must know the primary motivator for every character. Be able to say it in one word. Because when characters are pushed to the limit, that primary motivator is going to determine their course of action, not your decision as author. In Lonesome Dove, when Blueduck kidnaps Lori, Larry McMurtry did not have a choice as to what each of his characters were going to do. Because they were fully developed, they all acted ‘in character’. Gus went after Lori. Call kept the cattle moving north. Jake Spoon went to San Antonio and gambled. In my current WIP, my protagonist’s primary motivator is ‘loyalty’. My antagonist primary motivator is ‘honor.’ Do you see how those two motivators can truly clash and bring the fuel of a novel: Conflict?
3. You need at least three layers of motivation to your main characters. These layers are all present at the beginning of the book, but the character isn’t conscious of the deeper ones. They can be layered thus…
a. What do you want?
b. What do you really want?
c. What do you absolutely need?
4. Those layers are peeled away until we get down to that need. In the book Jen Talty and I wrote, each peeling away occurred at a turning point in the novel. JT Wilder in Don’t Look Down:
a. What do you want? Get paid and get laid. (He’s a guy)
b. What do you really want? A relationship.
c. What do you need? A relationship and community.
5. You don’t have to invent characters from scratch. If you’re not going to use real people (modified), then use what experts have developed for you. I like using variations of three templates, which we’ll cover in detail.
a. Archetypes. This is very useful for gender differences. Is there a male equivalent for slut? That always provokes good debate.
b. Profiling. I’m big on profiling because it gives you characters types that will act in certain ways. And no, it isn’t just for serial killers. You can profile anyone. Indeed, in my class, there is one exercise participants do and that is, profile themselves first.
c. The Myers-Briggs test. Many of you have taken it, but it gives you 16 distinct character types you can mine. By the way, one type, INFJ, is labeled author. The exact opposite, ESTP, is promoter. Something we focus on in Write-It-Forward.
6. Know your characters’ blind spot. We use a trait-need-flaw diagram to find that. It’s the flaw your character isn’t aware of that makes for compelling fiction and is the groundwork of tragedy.
7. Make your antagonist a real person, not a cardboard cut out. We must understand WHY the antagonist is doing a bad thing. By the way, evil is not a motivator. It’s an end result.
These are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned about character over the years that I wanted to share. You will find more detail when you participate in our Write-It-Forward on-line workshop. But after 20 years since my first book came out, I can honestly say I’ve learned more about the craft of writing over the past two years. I think the key to success for any writer is always wanting to learn more and developing skills in your craft.
I hope this will help you write more exciting Characters that will make for better stories. And Write It Forward.
No, thank you Bob!
Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge on Characterization, showing us just how important our Characters really are as they drive each of our stories forward.
Bob’s Write-It-Forward philosophy can be seen by his many achievements and in the development of Who Dares Wins Publishing over the past two years with his business partner Jen Talty. So I’m excited to introduce to you their latest launch in self-publishing called “The ShelfLess Book!”
To quote Bob, “Whether you have been published by a New York publisher, an independent press, an ePublisher, self-published or considering all of your options, this book contains all the information you need to make an informed decision about your career as an author in today’s fast moving digital world.”
Bob Mayer can also be found at:
So what do you think? What impels you to write great Characters that drive your many stories forward? I’d love to hear what your thoughts are!
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Thank you everyone for dropping by and for all your wonderful comments! 🙂