Nancy Kress: Dynamic Characters–How to Create Personalities that Keep Readers Captivated

I do have a couple of book reviews to catch up with you all on. One of the books that I wanted to share was this one for writers: Dynamic Characters–How to Create Personalities that Keep Readers Captivated.

I am in the process of applying for Taos Toolbox. Yup, I know the aps aren’t due until January 1st, but I am eligible for Professional Development funding via the college every couple of years, and that deadline is coming up shortly, so I have to see about whether I can get that funding, and then whether I get into the workshop, etc, etc. You’ve seen this drill before. It was called the Viable Paradise shuffle.

Many people I know from VP and from my Vegas workshop experience think well of Taos, and you know, I have yet to put myself in a position to be eaten by a bear, so it seemed a natural fit.


Applying for Taos Toolbox puts one in a Nancy Kress, Walter Jon Williams kind of mood. As many of you following the blog remember, I loved Beggars in Spain. The other day at my local Half-Price Books someone had parted with Dynamic Characters, and so it became mine.

What I really like about the book are two things.

First, Kress is an engaging teacher, who explains what she’s about and what she feels character is about. The first part of the book is nuts and bolts, and pretty standard fare. What makes the book stand out is where she goes after she covers the externals and the internals. Kress lays out how character and plot interplay, and she takes the time out to show you how to troubleshoot problem areas where you might be finding plot weakness because of character. If a writer looks at a first draft, and then analyzes the book based on the last third of Kress’ book, plot holes can be patched. Blocking walls can be broken down. Plots can be problem-solved.

I’m not pretending you can take art and magic out of plot, but I am suggesting that this is a great book to go to if you’re looking to find some ways to get that magic running again when you’ve written yourself into a corner.

The second thing? Kress seems to understand how I write, because it sounds like we have a similar process. So I could see how I could plug what she does into the work that I produce. It was nice to see a direct overlay to one’s own work, a tight fit.

i would recommend Dynamic Characters. I will find it as useful as Writing the Breakout Novel, probably at an second draft kind of stage.

Next up: Kitty Norville? Really?


Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

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