This month’s choice for Books for Writers is focused on character development. The book title is linked to Amazon.
The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes & Heroines by Tami D. Cowden, Carol LaFever, and Sue Viders. Archetype Press, 2013. 214 pgs.
This text is a re-release of the same title published in 2000 by Lone Star Press. If you are looking to strengthen your understanding of characterization, then this is the book for you.
Cowden, LaFever and Viders provide writers with an analysis of sixteen different master archetypes. Eight male and eight female.
Concerned this will make your characters wooden or predictable? Let me assuage your worries. If used properly, this book will make you understand the why behind the way people act.
The authors discuss the core archetypes, and also how to develop each as an evolving archetype and/or a layered archetype, which are techniques and options a writer can use to create original, breathing characters.
Even within each archetype, there is detailed information about different subcategories of personalities that fall under the umbrella of say The Boss or Crusader or any of the others.
Virtues and flaws are also described in detail, as are common occupations held by people of certain character-types. There are also sidebar bits that identify popular movie heroes and heroines who fit the archetype and its subcategories.
Another feature I love is the section on Archetype Interactions. Each archetype is paired up as friends and then also as potential romantic interests. This is detailed thoroughly for those of us who are planners and want to know what kind of sidekick might complement our hero, or what kind of antagonist might really chafe our heroine’s butt.
There is also a great section that analyzes the characterization in well-known ensemble films, as well as an appendix detailing the archetypes in films, television programs, and literature.
Ever take an interest inventory or an aptitude test to discover your talents and interests? This is not unlike having all of that type of information at your fingertips for your characters.
I recommend using this as a starting point in developing your characters. Get to know their basic qualities and then, like a masterful painter or sculptor, start layering the background, internal baggage and personality traits/quirks to build a fully realized, round, dynamic character.
This book is well worth the purchase price of $17.95.
I will bet it will find a place on your favorite writer’s reference bookshelf, and you will return to it time and time again.