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Character Diamonds

May 4, 2011

On Wednesdays, I'll re-post my Routines for Writers blog post here. I hope you enjoy!

I've heard a couple of different people talk about character diamonds over the years. David Freeman in his Beyond Structure weekend uses the diamond shape to suggest the major character traits you can use throughout the story to make the character interesting, consistent and sometimes a little unexpected.

The idea is to have two major characteristics that define the character, one quirky or unexpected characteristic, and another trait that is a mask. The mask is what the character has developed to cover his deepest fear. (Or whatever is the biggest internal problem that you'll explore during the story.)

In the screenwriting workshop I attended last month, Slaying the Dragon, the character diamond was used to show how character creates plot. The four points of the diamond are for recording a) the flaw that masks the character's biggest fear, b) the biggest inner fear, c) the biggest need, and d) the plan the character develops to meet their need. This plan doesn't work, of course, and as the character works his way along the hero's journey he ends up having to change plans.

I have to come up with a new story for one of my classes so I'm going to sit down with my whiteboard and colored markers and draw out both kinds of diamonds. For each major character I'll brainstorm what traits might be most interesting for each character, and what fears or problems. Then I'll pick two major traits and – since I like writing humorous pieces – one odd or quirky trait.

The mask will be the same on both triangles. All of the traits from the first diamond will help me figure out what would naturally show up on the second diamond. All of those points together will help me develop plot points that naturally extend from the character.

Notice I used “naturally” twice? Nothing bothers me more than watching a character do things that I don't believe they would do. Unless I'm the one who wrote the piece.  🙂


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