Guest Post: Character Development by Freda Hansburg, author of Shrink Rapt

Wow! It’s February. I can’t believe it. Today I’m honored to have Freda Hansburg guest post. Without further ado, here she is:

With my debut novel, Shrink Rapt, in print and the first draft of my new one, Tell on You, nearing completion, I thought I might share some of the lessons I’ve learned about character development along the way.  I can’t claim to have invented these insights, but I’ve come to appreciate how important – and frequently challenging – they can be.  So here they are, in the form of five gifts for writers to bestow upon our characters.

  1. Give them goals. What does your protagonist want badly enough to pursue in the face of all the obstacles you’re going to plant in her way?  Even more importantly, as Alan Watts asks, what is your hero’s idea of what that goal will bring her?  It’s the quest, usually for something unattainable, that drives our characters’ stories.
  1. Turn them loose. One of the coolest discoveries I’ve made as a novelist – and heard from fellow writers – is that our characters can surprise us.  They go off in directions we didn’t anticipate and even seem to take on lives of their own.  I got nervous the first time this happened, afraid I was losing control of the narrative.  Over time, I’ve come to welcome these unforeseen developments, which often serve to move the story forward in exciting ways.
  1. Let them fight. Conflict is a page turner.  Whether it’s a protagonist’s inner struggle or clashes between characters, good stories thrive on the drama of contention.  Look for opportunities to play up these moments, via climactic showdowns and simmering tensions in between.
  1. Make them suffer. One of the downsides of caring about my characters is a tendency to feel protective of them.  I hate to see my darlings suffer, but they must get roughed up on their journeys.  I have to constantly fight my squeamishness in order to beset my protagonists with the adversity and anguish needed to turn them into heroes.
  1. Have them learn. Our job is to teach our protagonists to grow up.  The arc of their development requires characters to discover something about themselves, their goals or the world that frees them from their limitations.  Whether they end up triumphant or sadder and wiser, our heroes must transform.  As must we, their creators.

Shrink Rapt

Shrink Rapt

By Freda Hansburg

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Psychologist April Simon finds her career and life on the line after the murder of her arrogant department chairman.  When four of her patients, all subjects in the late psychiatrist’s research, begin to violently unravel, April tries to solve the riddle of their transformation.  Her quest alarms the killer.  Will she be next?  The more she learns about her colleagues, the less she trusts them.  Who do you turn to when no one is what they seem?

Author Bio

Freda

Freda Hansburg is a psychologist who lives with her husband in New Jersey.  She is the co-author of the self-help books PeopleSmart and Working PeopleSmart.  Shrink Rapt is her first novel.

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About TBM

Recently I entered the world of self-publishing with my novel, A Woman Lost. Follow me on my indie publishing adventure on tbmarkinson.wordpress.com. Follow my challenge to travel to 192 countries, read 1,001 books, and watch AFI's top 100 movies on 50yearproject.wordpress.com
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11 Responses to Guest Post: Character Development by Freda Hansburg, author of Shrink Rapt

  1. So many great tips! I especially like #4, since I’m a little too fond of torturing my characters, heh.

  2. I think I would have a hard time making horrible things happen to my characters because I think I would become far too attached to them :).

  3. Great tips! They have to learn and grow or there’s no point to the story.

  4. #4 is the biggest thing I have learned, esp on my new WIP! I go way too easy on my characters!

  5. Fabulous post and a great poke in the ribs.
    Love the cover of Shrink Rapt (nice play on words) and the story sounds divine.

  6. cleemckenzie says:

    All good writing tips to keep in mind. The title Shrink Rapt is wonderful!

  7. Thank you all for your kind comments. You’ve warmed up a cold day in New Jersey for me!

  8. stephie5741 says:

    I think writing is often a balance between letting our characters run wild and reeling them back in! Great tips.

  9. Sherri says:

    Great advice and tips, thanks so much TB for this wonderful guest post by Freda. Love the book cover and title, very clever (not to mention the story behind it) 🙂

  10. It’s so great meeting Freda and I love her tips. My characters suffer and learn, and they always surprise me.

  11. Great tips! I used to think the author was in the driver’s seat all by herself, dictating what happened and what her characters did… until I actually wrote a book. HA! Those characters do have a way of providing unexpected surprises, don’t they?

    I love the title “Shrink Rapt”… very clever! Sounds like a terrific book. Who better to write a psychological thriller than a psychologist? I’m looking forward to reading it.

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