Characterize Your Character

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Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is designed to shape a not-yet submitted, rejected, or self-published manuscript with low ratings into a book that shines. The method can also be a guiding resource for writers starting a manuscript. See details below.

A writer builds a protagonist’s character using a character arc. He develops the changes in how the character thinks, chooses, and acts throughout the story. The protagonist is able to do something at the end of the story that he couldn’t do in the beginning. Perhaps forgive someone or feel at home in a place where he felt like an alien. But this is not characterization.

A Definition of Characterize

The New Oxford American Dictionary says characterize means to “describe the distinctive features or nature of.” 

What are these distinctive features that are observable?

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  • Choices: sports car
  • Attitude: uncaring
  • Behaviors: goes to church
  • Career or job: lawyer
  • Dress: muu-muus
  • Dwells: High-rise
  • Education: high school dropout
  • Gestures: snaps his fingers when he makes a point
  • Habits: sucks his teeth
  • Name: Buddy
  • Personality: introverted
  • Physical traits: button nose
  • Quirks: dresses her dog in mini-sized replicas of her own blouses
  • Station in life: middle class
  • Sex: male
  • Speech: enunciates each word
  • Values: the love of money

The writer may tell these features. Or the writer may show them through the protagonist’s actions and dialogue. Or the writer may show them through how other characters react to the protagonist.

Examples of Characterization

Let’s see how we might characterize protagonists with their physical traits, actions, and dialogue.

  • Molly turned down Bruno’s help and loaded her twin headboard and stained armchair into the bed of her 1995 Chevy truck.

What this one sentence may tell us: Molly is independent, strong, and not well off, or doesn’t care about new things. Other sentences will make these assumptions clearer.

  • Trenton pulled on the cuff of his starched sleeve, revealing a diamond-studded cufflink.

What this one sentence may tell us: Trenton is well off and cultured, or wants people to think he is. We’ll be given other clues to help make a clearer picture.

  • Carmine sent her hands flying in all directions as she screamed at Doug for telling Marco about her day in the big city.

What this one sentence may tell us: Carmine is fiery. She lives outside the city, possibly in a rural area or small town.

  • Skylar grinned, showing her two front teeth were missing. She held up the furry feline. “I knew Daddy would let me have ish kitten.”  

What this one sentence may tell us: Skylar is six or seven. Possibly spoiled. She knows how to get what she wants from Daddy.

Of course, we can’t fully characterize a protagonist in one or two sentences, but we can learn a few traits quickly.

What features could you add to my list?

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Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools. —Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript and into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan. —Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling author of the Myrtle Clover Mysteries, the Southern Quilting Mysteries, and the Memphis Barbeque Mysteries http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/



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