Sunday, October 23, 2005

WORKSHOP: Character Development Part Two

Creating 4-D Characters
Barbara Scott

Writing a character who leaps off the page depends on the author’s ability to create that character in more than one dimension. In fact, even 3-D may not be enough to make a character as close to human as possible. Human beings actually exist in four dimensions: physical, intellectual. emotional and social. Completing these 4-D exercises and charts can help you give depth and substance to the characters you create.

The Four Dimensions:
1. The Physical Dimension includes height, weight, hair color and style, eye color, racial or ethnic background, other facial and body characteristics, clothing, and possessions i.e. car, furniture/decor, jewelry, mementos.
2. The Intellectual Dimension includes knowledge and logic including thoughts, wishes, dreams, problem-solving abilities and style. Can be shown in the character’s choice of occupation, style of speech, internal dialogue, how he/she approaches a task, handles an event, or argues a point.
3. The Emotional Dimension includes all the characters feelings and attitudes, the way the character identifies and copes with emotions, responds to conflict, hardships, or triumphs.
4. The Social Dimension consists of how the character interacts with others, not just words but gestures, facial expressions, body language, where the character stands and how he/she moves through the social milieu.

Establishing a Character’s Dimensions:
Exercise 1: Think about the character your wish to create. Put yourself in his or her brain. Then complete each introductory statement with a series of single descriptive words or very short phrases. Jot down your first thoughts on the first chart.
Exercise 2: Review the statements you completed. Fill out the second chart by placing a check in one of the 2 left columns next to the number of the statement. Then decide which of the four dimensions you think describes the statement. A statement may belong with more than one dimension.
Using the Exercises: The first 2 columns can help you determine character attitude toward the self and how the word might perceive him/her. (Even a villain should have some positive points.) The Four Dimensions columns can help you create a balanced 4-D character. If you discover at the end of the exercise that one or more dimensions are underrepresented, you can work on changes to add emphasis to that dimension.

Creating 4-D Characters
Chart 1
Complete the “I” statements with a word or short phrase that your character would use to decribe him/herself. Example: I am loyal.

I am
1. _____________________
2. _____________________
3. _____________________
4. _____________________
5. _____________________
6. _____________________

I have
7. _____________________
8. _____________________
9. _____________________
10. _____________________
11. _____________________
12. _____________________

I can
13. _____________________
14. _____________________
15. _____________________
16. _____________________
17. _____________________
18. _____________________

I want
19. _____________________
20. _____________________
21. _____________________
22. _____________________
23. _____________________
24. _____________________

I should
25. _____________________
26. _____________________
27. _____________________
28. _____________________
29. _____________________
30. _____________________

I will
31. _____________________
32. _____________________
33. _____________________
34. _____________________
35. _____________________
36. _____________________

Creating 4-D Characters
Chart 2

For each statement on chart 1, place a check in one of the 2 left columns. Then check the dimension or dimensions the statement reveals about your character.




BlackButterflyReview said...

Good Morning,
I like this process. I will be printing it out to help develop my secondary characters and to spruce up my main characters.

Eleanor (#17)

Shelia said...

Barbara, thanks for emphasizing the 4D of a character….I will keep in mind as I write my next story.

Jean said...

Wow! This is great. I, too, will ue this in developing my characters. I think this is the best I've seen, thus far.


Barbara said...

I apologize that my chart 2 did not turn out in the proper format online. It should have been a grid on which you could check off your "I" statements to see which of the 4 dimensions: Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, or Social it addressed and whether or not it made a positive or negative statement about your character. You could probably set up such a grid for yourself using graph paper. If you would like me to snail mail you a copy of the exercise on the formatted grid, send me your address at my email, I promise not to use your address for anything but this mailing.
Barbara Scott

Felecia Ellis said...

Thank you for the information. I can now have more effective discriptions of my characters. You've brought to mind some things I'd never thought about.

SORMAG said...

Sorry about the format Barb. Cut and paste and the blog have a problem sometimes.


Vanessa A. Johnson said...

This is wonderful information. I'm definitely saving this as I'm sure it will help me to fully expand my characters. Thanks to you and LaShaunda for providing us this invaluable information.

Love & Peace,
VeeJay Badge #121

Anonymous said...

I am trying this method now and it is working out great! Thanks so much. Its proving to be invaluable info for me.

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