Creating Characters: Let Them Whisper Their Secrets by Marisa D’Vari
Michael Wiese Productions, $26.95, 233 pages
Of all the types of writing books to read, my favorites are those that deal with characters. Marisa D’Vari does not disappoint the reader/writer with Creating Characters: Let Them Whisper Their Secrets. The first chapter provides a quick, but thorough, examination of Personality Types using the author’s own More Personality System™, the ancient Enneagram system of personality typecasting, Hippocrates’ humorous ohilosophy, and Carl Jung’s theory. If you’ve ever met someone and felt you’d met his type before (as is mentioned in the book), Chapter One might give you the answer as to why you felt that way.
Chapter Three: How to Summon Characters from Their Magical Spheres is something to be experienced. Obviously, it’s of interest to me as I’m fully into fantasy stories and movies, but this chapter is not a dance through the spring fairy rings. It’s serious business. All writers experience that moment when a character comes to them, fully-fleshed, ready to fill the blank pages with his story. Chapter Three touches all too briefly on the subject of the collective unconscious, but makes up for it with a lesson on how to nurture your ability
to let your characters come to you.
Though Chapter Three is good, Chapter Four: Techniques to Discover Your Character’s Inner World, is even better. Many writers prefer to allow a character to develop while his story is being written, and often this creates problems when characters act in ways that don’t work. Chapter Four helps you get past this. It also helps you with the backstory so that you not only have enough to work on, but there’s enough there for others involved—i.e., actors and directors—to carry the character’s personality further.
Another nice thing about this book is that it doesn’t have to be read cover to cover; you can pick and choose the chapters. But once you start reading, it’s hard to put down. D’Vari has an easy style that reads well. Some of the information included you already know, not because you’ve read it elsewhere, but because it’s so logical that it falls into the category of Collective Memory. For instance, Chapter Six: Coloring Dialogue Via Personality Type is so very accurate. Yet, it offers ideas authors don’t always pay attention to. One little trick she mentions is to think of an everyday question, such as “How are you?” and then have a character/personality type answer it. Not everyone is going to mutter the usual “uh, fine …”
There are, of course, summaries and assignments at the end of chapters. Even if you’re someone who doesn’t like to do the exercises or assignments in a writing book, don’t skim over these pages. Be sure to read them. D’Vari has worded her assignments in such a way that they get you thinking about your characters. Even when you’ve put the book down, the questions prick at you until you have to give them more time.
Just when you think you’ve read all you can read about coming up with characters to people your stories, a book comes out to let you know there actually is more information out there.