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.”
Wow, thank you Bob and Jen! That sounds like a sure fire way to success! Who couldn’t use that kind of information? It is now available through Amazon.com or Who Dares Wins Publishing.
And just in case you’re wondering what Bob Mayer does when he isn’t working?
He can usually be found hanging with two of his favorite friends!
Cool Gus and Sassy Becca! Now, who could resist that?
Bob Mayer can also be found at:
www.whodareswinspublishing.com Facebook: Bob Mayer Author
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!
Would you like to see more great posts like you saw today? Then I encourage you to go now! Run up to the top right hand side of the page and click on the Follow button to receive your personal copy of future posts!!!!
Thank you everyone for dropping by and for all your wonderful comments! 🙂
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Thank you very much for this post, Bob. I write character-driven books because I love creating people and making them do whatever I want them to. I believe your class would be a great help to me, so that’s my next move.
Thank you so much Patti for stopping by and leaving a comment! I know you will enjoy your class with Bob and I love the fact that you love creating great Characters! That’s the fun part of writing! 🙂
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What an informative post! Thanks, Karen and Bob! I’m an INFJ–and yes, really the opposite of a promoter! 😀 I am intrigued by the idea of administering the MB personality test to my characters. Off to try it now!
Adriana Ryan recently posted..Have You Considered a Joint Blog?
Hi Adriana, thank you! Isn’t that Meyers-Briggs test amazing? It really helps to know yourself first and then apply this to our characters. I’m so glad you enjoyed this and that it helped. Thanks for stopping by and for your comment Adriana! 🙂
Tag! You’re IT!! Go to my page and see!
Great advice! Thanks Bob & Karen. Hmmm…off to find my character’s blind spot.
Hi Shannon! Don’t you just love that information on the blind spot? I’m so glad you had the chance to come by. Yes, it was great advice! Thanks Shannon! 🙂
This is totally awesome information, Bob and Karen. I have Bob’s classes on my list of things to do this year. Thanks for the great post. 🙂
Hi Sheila! I’m so glad you enjoyed Bob’s post and that his class is on your to do list for this year! You won’t be sorry. His classes are packed with great information on craft and promotion. A great pair don’t you think? Thanks for your comment Sheila and for dropping by! Take care! 🙂
A generous Thank You to both you and Bob, Karen. Characters seem to always nudge my buttons. I think Bob hit it best when he noted the part about their motivations… I’m afraid I don’t really know mine as much as I would like after all, because they keep surprising me by doing things that seem “out of character” (though often I realize that these situations come more from what the character “thinks s/he wants as opposed to what he really wants”… so yes, the layering of motivation was a GIFT since I’d never seen it expressed that way before).
Eden Mabee recently posted..Tuesday Snippet and Talk on a Walk
Hi Eden, you are so welcome! Oh I am so glad this post was helpful to you! And at just the right time! I love when that happens! “A Gift”, couldn’t have said it better Eden! I will surely convey this to Bob! Thanks you so much for your visit and for your wonderful comment! Take care! 🙂
This was brilliant! Thanks, Karen and Bob. I know Bob from the online class and from his blog. Once again, he gives us concise and useful lessons in a straightforward manner. I admire his style. And, of course, great advice.
Fabio Bueno recently posted..The Eleven Questions Game
Well did you survive your day yesterday Fabio? You really had a lot going on! Thanks for jumping in here and for all your thoughts! I think you and I were in Bob’s last class together and boy did we ever learn a lot from him. I’m so glad you found this information helpful. Yes, Bob does give great advice! Thanks Fabio! 🙂
Brilliant post, Karen.
I had it drummed into me very early on by a certain Kristen Lamb – who as you know was taught by Bob – that characters are the first thing you put together.
I love my characters and I love this post.
Hey there Donna! All brilliance belongs to Bob! So take that Bob! lol And, well, you are one fortunate girl Donna! You’ve been taught by one of the best. I just hope that it rubs off on me! Thanks Donna for sharing that! Bob and Kristen definitely know what they’re talking about and it behooves us to listen. We’ll only write better characters, thus better books! 🙂
Super post Karen! 🙂
What drives me forward I guess is being excited. I love it when I can’t wait to find out what happens–it almost seems like I have nothing to do with the outcome. LOL. That makes it fun for me.
Coleen Patrick recently posted..Eleven Questions and Evidence from my Writing Cave
Why thank you Coleen. But all the credit goes to Bob! I love how involved you are with your characters and how they push you forward with excitement! That I think makes for great characters that jump off the page Coleen! Thanks for your thoughts and for stopping by! 🙂
This is AWESOME! Thanks, Bob and Karen. So much great info that I need to put into my toolbox. I’ve been meaning to take the online class for a while and this seals the deal. Off to see when the next one is. Woo!!
Ginger Calem recently posted..WritersButt Wednesday – Your journey
Hi Ginger, you won’t be sorry! I have learned so much from Bob’s classes. And I agree with you. This was an awesome post packed with great information! I’m glad you enjoyed it so much. Thanks for checking it out! See you soon! 🙂
Great advice. Layering, blind spot and personality profile for a character help her to become three dimensional. Meyers-Briggs is a useful system and like Jeannette, I also like enneagram as a tool.
And I second the recommendation for Holly Lisle’s Character Creation Clinic. Bob’s and Jen’s classes are on my wish list too. I’ve heard good things about Bob and Jen as teachers and the content looks fabulous.
Reetta Raitanen recently posted..Link Feast
Karen, thanks for letting me know about this post. I hadn’t seen it.
What a fantastic interview you’ve done with one of our writing greats! I have him on my list of goals for 2013 – I’ve got to go back to Warrior Writer class. 🙂
Jenny Hansen recently posted..Keep Your Characters True To Themselves
Hi Jenny! No problem. I’m always happy to pass along great advice on our craft! I appreciated your post the other day too. I don’t think we ever stop learning. Thanks for dropping by Jenny and take care! 🙂
This came at a perfect time for me! I’m struggling with one of my characters, and numbers 3&4 really did it for me. Thanks, Bob! And thank you, Karen for always doing something special on your blog!
Alicia Street recently posted..Lucky Sevens!
Alicia, how are you girl? I love it when things happen perfectly! Timing is so important. And look, Bob was there in the nick of time! Aw, thank you Alicia! I try to do my best and that’s very nice of you to say! Thank you for coming by today and take care! Be sure to say hi to Roy! 🙂
Wonderful post. Bob’s so very approachable and willing to share his knowledge. Thanks to both of you. I, too, believe that character drives the story. Therefore, every single thing I can learn about character, I soak up like a sun worshiper.
Lynette M Burrows recently posted..Warning! 10 Signs You’ve Pushed Too Hard
Hi Lynette! You’re looking pretty tan to me you little sun worshiper! lol I’m so glad that Bob’s approach and knowledge helped you with your writing! You are so very welcome Lynette and thank you so much for coming by! I see a great character in your future! 🙂
Make your antagonist a real person, not a cardboard cut out – how can you better sum it up?
Great, straight-to-the-point, easy-to-use tips. Thank you, Bob and Karen.
Yes Angela, I thought that comment really struck home! And straight-to-the-point would be Bob! Thank you for your thoughts and for dropping by! 🙂
Interesting that Bob feels he’s learned more about the craft in the last two years than the previous 20. Point 3 (Three Layers of Motivation) really hit me as a deepening method. Thanks, Karen, for bringing us great insight from one of the greats, and thank you, Bob, for being an inspiring writer AND teacher!
Debra Eve recently posted..Who’s Bill Gates’ Favorite Teacher?
Hi Debra! Yes, I found that interesting too! What is it about the last two years? That just shows that alot is going on both with craft and in the industry. I’m so glad that you found this post helpful Debra! It was a really fun collaboration! Thanks for coming by and for all your wonderful thoughts! 🙂
What a great post. Thanks very much, Bob and Karen 🙂
Mike Schulenberg recently posted..What Do You Mean, No “In a World?”
Hi Mike! How are you dude? You are welcome! I hope you found something to take home with you and that it will help you create great characters! Thanks for coming by! 🙂
I am at the layering stage of writing my book so the timing is perfect for your advice! I have it all written and now I am taking it down to bare bones and rewriting each chapter. The one thing I have going for me as a newbie writer is I have no fear of deleting! ( I will have at least 2 rewrites after this one.)
My assignment tomorrow is to answer those questions for each of my characters….it will help me in the process.
Thanks so much!
Susie, that is an amazing attitude girl! I love when things happen like this. Perfect timing indeed! And I know what you mean about having no fear in deleting. Good for you, digging in and ripping things down to the bare bones! I just finished doing that myself and am in the polishing stages. Best wished with your assignment Susie! Thank you so much for stopping by! 🙂
Hot dog, fantastic interview, Karen!
Thank you, Bob, for sharing all these great tips with us. Very valuable info. Now to practice and work on all these points. I can’t wait till I have some extra moola to take your class. Things are bad now, but they’ll get better and your class is first on my list. In the meantime, I’ll read some of your books. Take care.
Lynn Kelley recently posted..Lucky 7 Meme – May Duh Odds Be Ever in Yer Favor!
Hot dog is right Lynn! I’m glad you found this information valuable because it IS valuable! I’ve bookmarked this information Lynn. I know things are tight right now, but please do consider taking one of Bob’s classes on craft in the future. You won’t be sorry. Bob’s a great teacher. Lynn thank you so much for dropping in and for your comment. You take care girl! 🙂
THE Bob Mayer!
Really memorable characters need to be heavily flawed but courageous and at the end DO THE RIGHT THING even if it threatens to destroy them. They overcome not only the external conflicts in a story but their own inner toxic demons which I think makes the reader root for the hero/heroine more than the evil big bad guy/corporation/government. If you think about some of the most recently successful stories to hit the headlines it’s all about the characters – Hunger Games, Twilight, 50 Shades etc. If a writer can write a character that polarises opinion then they’ve done the job and hit the jackpot. It’s that easy and that hard.
Great post, Karen & Bob!
CC MacKenzie recently posted..LUCKY7 MEME!
LOL Christine! THE Bob Mayer! You crack me up girl! Thank you so much for your awesome thoughts on character! Flawed and courageous and will do the right thing no matter what! You sumed it up very nicley. Thanks for coming by Christine! I’m glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂
Great post from Bob and thank you, Karen, for inviting him. Smart!
As I am just finishing up a Conflict and Idea workshop with Bob, I say to anyone who has not taken a Bob Mayer course, do it. The information is practical with concrete examples and useful for any writer of fiction or non-fiction.
Am so glad I subscribe to your blog, Karen.
KM Huber recently posted..Stirring the Pot
Hi Karen! Wow, oh my goodness, thank you! Yes, I took that same class as you and loved it! You learn so much. And I am so glad that you came by Karen! Thank you so much for all your kind words! 🙂
Great post. I think building layers into your characters is super important – but very difficult. I never thought about mining the Myers-Briggs personality types for characters – great idea.
I took that a while ago and didn’t get author :*( Oh well. I’m close INTJ – does that mean it’s easier or more difficult??
I’ve taken Bob’s classes before as well. Always learn something I can apply to make my writing better.
Lisa Hall-Wilson recently posted..Footloose: Prove It
Hi Lisa, I’m glad you like it! I too took the Myers-Briggs personality test. I agree, it’s a great idea. I think the fact that Bob himself admits that he is still learning shows he leads by example. There’s always something we can learn. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Lisa and for coming by! 🙂
Awww puppies! Thanks for sharing this, great stuff here. I’ve stashed it in my “writing advice” notebook!
Melinda recently posted..Fluffy Girl Goes to the Gym
Hi Melinda! I am so glad you enjoyed this post! I’ve stashed it away myself. But I’ve taken Bob’s classes and I know just how valuable they are! Thank for stopping by Melinda! 🙂
PS I stared at that dog photo, awww-ing, for like five minutes. 😉
August McLaughlin recently posted..Controversial Blog Posts: How to Make them Work
I know. Those two dogs are the cutest! They pull at your heartstrings! I love that.
Fantastic insight, not surprisingly! I love Bob’s points on knowing a character’s blind spot. I find that Achilles heel particularly important for villains. And that motivation can’t be underestimated.
I also find really liking and understanding my characters important, too. Understand why “evil” characters became that way gives me compassion and helps in plotting their course.
Great post, Karen! Thanks, both of you.
August McLaughlin recently posted..Controversial Blog Posts: How to Make them Work
I so agree with you August! I love how Bob explains the blind spot and how understanding it and how it relates to your characters are essential to writing our plot! Thank you so much August for coming by! 🙂
It doesn’t get much better than this! Great guest post Karen! Enlisting Bob, you are amazing! Thank you, Bob, for the invaluable information. You gave me things to think about.
Debra Kristi recently posted..Hit by the Lucky 7! BAM!
Aw, thank you Debra! Yes, Bob is amazing and a great teacher of craft! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂
Thanks for the opportunity!
Bob Mayer recently posted..Let’s End the Author vs. Publisher Feuding and Indie vs Trad
Well Bob, I think it is I that should be thanking you! It was an awesome post and one that we will all glean from. Thank you so much! 🙂
Wow Karen, you sure got an A-lister! Thanks for sharing!
Bob is right, characters need to come first in fiction. Engaging characters we care about are what pulls readers in, and can make even the most overused plots interesting. I like using enneagrams for character development – they’re very similar to Meyers-Briggs. For the next step, my favorite resource is Holly Lisle’s Create a Character Clinic. The exercises really help me to dig deeper into characters’ motivations and learn what makes them tick. Thanks, Bob, for sharing your insights, and to Karen for hosting!
Jennette Marie Powell recently posted..My Town Monday: Historically Delicious!
Hi Jennette! I couldn’t agree more. I love what you say about engaging characters pull the readers in and can make the most overused plots interesting. I have never heard of enneagrams. I’ll have to check that out. And Holly Lisle sounds awesome. I’m so glad you came by and for leaving such a informative comment Jennette! Thank you so much! 🙂