Sandy Tritt, founder and CEO of Inspiration for Writers, Inc., was guest speaker for the Point Pleasant Writers Guild meeting held on Aug. 7. She is the author of “Everything I Know” (Headline Books, 2006) and “The Plain English Writer’s Workbook.” Throughout the last year, members of the Writers Guild have shared several topics from Sandy’s workbook during their meetings.
One of those topics included characterization. Tritt chose this subject for further study in her recent presentation to the Writers Guild. As she explained, the main character of a story is called the protagonist, who wants one thing more than any other. The antagonist is a character that stands in the way of the protagonist getting that one thing. The antagonist can be another character in the story, the protagonist himself, or even society. This conflict is necessary to give tension and suspense to the story, to keep it from being flat. To see how the conflict is resolved keeps the reader engaged. Ms. Tritt went on to say that many other characters can be involved in the story, but not all characters have to have names. For instance, if a character only appears in one scene, the author may refer to him or her as the particular role they play. For instance, “Marilyn asked the waitress for another cup of coffee,” not “Marilyn asked Patsy, the waitress, for another cup of coffee.”
For fiction writers, creating characters can be a challenge. Many details are needed in order to make them appear as real people to the reader. As an exercise in developing a character, Tritt asked Writers Guild members and their guests to decide upon a main character by coming up with the gender of that character. Other details included age, race, color of hair and eyes, height, personality traits, religion, education, career choices, marital status and where the character would live. A common mistake is to refer to the character in chapter one as being blue-eyed, but in chapter 10, she has eyes of brown. Tritt recommends recording details about a character on a character trait chart, one chart per character. Character growth charts are also helpful in reminding the author how the character has changed from the first chapter to the last.
Almost as if she were in the room, a 35-year-old, auburn-haired woman named Heather emerged. She is biracial, having parents of both European and African lineage, a member of America’s rich and famous jet-setters, both a fashion model and a race car driver, and subject to having a nervous breakdown in the near future due to all the stress in her life. Sometimes, almost with very little effort, the writer comes up with settings and plots for his or her story line just by fully developing the character. Tritt challenged the group to write their stories about Heather and how she meets her life’s goal. They can be given to her when she makes her next visit.
A reception was held for the author and the Writers Guild thanked her with a card and small gift. Those attending included Wilma Akery, Tritt’s friend and editor of “Confluence Literary Magazine” which is a collaboration of Marietta College and the Ohio Valley Literary Group and takes its name from the merging of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers. Published annually, the magazine celebrates the work of both new and established writers. Akery distributed copies of the magazine to Writers Guild members and their guests.
Others attending the presentation included Patrecia Gray, Marilyn Clarke, Carol Newberry, April Pyles, Nellie Ruby Taylor, Kris Moore, Bob Watterson, Joe Ingerick, Sue Underwood, and guests, P.J. and Donna Heck.
On Sept. 4, 1-3 p.m. at the Mason County Library, the Writers Guild will host another guest speaker, Michael Connick. He is the author of three Cold War spy novels based on his real-life experiences working with the intelligence community, the Department of Defense and the technology industry: “Trapped in a Hall of Mirrors,” “Funhouse Mirrors,” and “Afghan Mirrors.” His fourth novel “HPD” is a work of fiction that takes place in Huntington and whose main character is an officer of the Huntington Police Department. A reception will be held in honor of Mr. Connick to which the public is invited.
The Point Pleasant Writers Guild meets every first and third Wednesday of the month from 1–3 p.m. at the Mason County Library. All interested writers are welcome to attend.