Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jeff Gerke Helps You Take Your Characters and Stories to Another Level

The Barn Door Book Loft. Free Books! Book Giveaways.

Guest post by Jennifer Slattery

If you're an author, you've likely heard a great deal about the need to create dynamic characters, but one major question remains: How? You can stalk your family members and neighbors, record every action and facial expression, and drill them on their deepest fears, aspirations and needs, but eventually you run out of warm bodies. (Either that, or your friends and family members are a tad too weird to be believable. Oh, personal issue. Sorry.) But is there another way, one that won't result in duck tape and a restraining order? Jeff Gerke, author of Plot Versus Character, says there is, and he's here to tell us how.

Me: What are some key elements in creating a dynamic character?

Jeff: The character portion of Plot Versus Character begins with a Myers-Briggs temperament as the character core, and then adds layers around it. The MB system identifies 16 temperaments--but we aren't just 16 personalities, like the 12 Cylon models in Battlestar Galactica.

If you stood two INTJs next to one another, you probably wouldn't think they were clones. You'd immediately see differences in gender, age, ethnicity, appearance, height, hair color, posture, dress, etc. Then as you got to know the two, you'd see differences in background, intelligence, education, speech, zeal, spiritual gifts, love languages, and more.

Then when it comes to preparing a character to take the starring role in a novel, we have to come up with a wonderful inner journey for her. This transformational character arc is the "plot" of the character, and it forms the basis for the plot we create for the story.

Me: I have taken character classes and read numerous books on character development, but have never heard instructors emphasis the spiritual gifts and passions of a character before. Yet, it makes perfect sense! So, once you've got your characters down, how do you begin creating the plot?

Jeff: In Plot Versus Character, I wrap the external plot around the main character's inner journey. In this way, I assure the character-first novelist that creating a strong plot is really something that will work to showcase this amazing character she's created. And my approach to building characters--especially the inner journey portion--is really a plot-first approach to characters. So both groups can be in their comfort zones.

So a great plot is really a way to add structure, suspense, and a satisfying resolution to the heart of a novel, which is the main character's transformation.

Mainly we do it through a three-act structure, plus discussions of genre, era, antagonist, prologues, ticking time bombs, stakes, and more.

Me: Your book provides a wealth of information and I imagine the emphasis on the character's spiritual gifts and passion ensures richly spiritual books. I suspect your other book, The Art and Craft of Writing Christian Fiction is equally intriguing. Can you tell us more about it?

Jeff: For two years I wrote a weekly column online called "Fiction Writing Tip of the Week"; After 96 tips, I finally felt I'd pretty much said everything I needed to say about writing and publishing Christian fiction.

At my wife's urging, I decided to put those tips into a book that people could buy at writers conferences or whatever and have at home. As I was compiling the tips and converting them into book format, I realized I'd written about two books' worth of tips! So I took just the writing and strategizing tips and put them in this book. A planned next book, The Art & Craft of Editing and Publishing Christian Fiction, will contain the editing and business/marketing tips.

Definitely another book I absolutely must have! Join us tomorrow as Jeff talks about Marcher Lord Press, a rapidly growing publishing house that has earned the title: The Premier Publisher of Christian Speculative Fiction.

Order your copy of Plot Versus Character now!

Jeff is giving away a copy of "Plot Versus Character." To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway multiple times--once on each day's spotlight post.

Guest post by Jennifer Slattery


Angela Breidenbach said...

Love this interview and the fun way you asked the questions. I already know Jeff is a fun guy from lots of conferences :-)

Mara said...

Great interview!

Anonymous said...

Nice interview! This book needs a place in my bookcase.

Yvonne Blake said...

I already have "The Art and Craft of Writing Christian Fiction" and it is one of the best writing books I've read.

Thanks for this introduction to this book. I can't wait to read it.

Elaine Cooper said...

Love it! (The interview AND the info in the book!) Where is my Amazon gift card.....

Joanne Sher said...

Ohh am I loving this interview week! Enter me yet again, please :)

Michelle Griep said...

Hah...I just ordered this book yesterday! Informative interview, Jeff. Thanks!

Dawn Ford said...

I have "The Art and Craft of Writing Christian Fiction" and it's as good as it gets. Jeff is able to bring the lessons to us on a level we sci-fi fantasy buffs understand.

Lance Albury said...

Jeff's insight and advice is always solid.

I would own his book already, but I have a backlog of craft books to get through. If I don't win it, I'll be purchasing it soon.

Julia M. Reffner said...

I've been listening to Jeff Gerke's conference tapes. Count me in please.


Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

i really appreciate jeff's insight into the layering process of characters. you're right...most other books don't emphasize spiritual gifts or love languages, but those are very important in the CBA! thanks for this interview.

the character therapist

Cindy said...

Thank you for such in interesting interview. I would love the opportunity to be entered in the drawing for this book.


Susan J. Reinhardt said...

I think I read every single tip on Jeff's website, but I'd love to read the book version. I'm sure he elaborated on each one.

susanjreinhardt AT gmail DOT com

Anonymous said...

Loved Art & Craft of Christian Fiction

Julie Arduini said...

I'm enjoying this information and look forward to tomorrow's post! Count me in.

PatriciaW said...

This is a great series. I struggle with tying the character's journey to the story plot.

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