Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress


Sherlock Holmes. Scarlett O’Hara. Hannibal Lecter. Harry Potter. These are characters so fascinating and so believable, it’s as if they exist outside their books—as if they are real. Even if we never create such iconic characters, every writer can make her characters deeper, more relatable, and more interesting on the page. Doing so will also help with plotting, elevating every part of the book.

DYNAMIC CHARACTERS is divided into three parts. The first focuses on the externals. What is the character’s name? How does a character look and sound? Where does she live and what does she do?  The second part tackles the internal life of the character—her thoughts and attitudes. This is also where Kress discusses villains. The  third part is about the way character intersects with plot. Point of view comes into play here, as well as minor characters and the way character change is the strongest element of any good plot.

Kress illustrates her points with many examples from both classic and contemporary books. All her examples are positive ones, showing what works instead of what does not. She also explains why they work the way they do. After all, it’s no use having an example of a technique if the writer doesn’t know how to use it. Kress is careful to explain what is gained and what is lost by each narrative choice.

Kress also tackles touchy questions like the problem with anti-heroes, the risks of basing a character on a real person, and when the author’s assumptions about people can get him in trouble.

DYNAMIC CHARACTERS has a wealth of information, but it never feels overwhelming. Kress has broken the process of character creation into simple steps, but they are more like tools to use than a formula to follow. She explains why certain conventions exist, but isn’t dogmatic about it. She also shows us what the exceptions are and why they work.

I love all the characters I’ve created. I’m sure you do, too. We love spending time with these imaginary people who are very real to us. With DYNAMIC CHARACTERS as our guide, we can make them become real to readers, too.


DYNAMIC CHARACTERS can be found here.


Rating: 5 stars



This book is best for: intermediate writers


I recommend this book

One thought on “Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress

  1. Oooh, interesting! May have to buy this one. I love my characters as well – and character-driven novels.

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