The Secrets of Character by Matt Bird

When readers begin a novel, they are not reading for plot, they are reading for character. The best plot in the world won’t hold a reader if they don’t like the hero. Readers want to be reassured, right from the start, that this is a character they’d like to spend 300 pages with, so it’s crucial you get readers invested in your hero in the first few pages. THE SECRETS OF CHARACTER shows you exactly how to do that, with an explanation of each technique and examples of how to use it.

According to Bird, readers need three things in order to keep reading. They need to believe in the protagonist, care about her, and invest in her. You make a reader believe by using specific and granular details. You make a reader care by showing the heroine’s bravery in hard circumstances. You make a reader invest by giving the heroine the unique skills she’ll need to solve the story problem.

That sounds obvious, but only in hindsight. And Bird doesn’t just tell writers to do those three things and call it a day. He meticulously breaks down each step, giving examples of all the ways you can add detail, or craft difficult circumstances, or make her a badass. All the examples are from well-known novels and movies, from Little Women to The Hunger Games. I’m someone who learns best from examples, so I appreciated Bird’s focus on showing how other writers have done it.

I also liked Bird’s positive attitude. He is not interested in telling writers about their mistakes. He’s too busy showing writers all the great things they can do with their characters. He offers lots of options but cautions readers against trying all of them. This is a menu, not an all-you-can-eat buffet. Each writer and each character is unique, and some of the tools will suit certain stories, but not others.

Some writers are skilled at characterization and automatically do much of what Bird advises. However, even character-driven writers will find THE SECRETS OF CHARACTER useful, because now they can deliberately apply these techniques instead of fumbling in the dark. And writers who are more plot-driven, or who struggle with characterization, will find THE SECRETS OF CHARACTER invaluable.

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THE SECRETS OF CHARACTER can be found here

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Rating: 5 stars

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This book is best for: beginning to intermediate writers

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I recommend this book.

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