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Creating Characters: How to Build Story People

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Creating Characters

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Creating Characters
How to Build Story People
By Dwight V. Swain
University of Oklahoma Press: Norman, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-8061-3918-0

Reviewed by Anna Dogole - October 15, 2012

If you've heard of Dwight V. Swain (1915 - 1992), odds are, if you're a writer that is, it was in regards to his invaluable writing guide, Techniques of the Selling Writer. However, this is not the only how-to book that he wrote on writing. He also wrote Creating Characters: How to Build Story People. In Techniques, Swain devotes a single chapter on techniques for creating characters and teaching you how to bring them to life in your story. In Creating Characters, he devotes an entire book to this important subject.

Swain was a talented and prolific writer who was a faculty member in the Professional Writing Program at the University of Oklahoma. Both this book, and Techniques of the Selling Writer have been published by the University of Oklahoma Press. Both titles are still in print, and if history is any indication, they will remain so for a very long time to come!

The information in this book is divided into nineteen thematic chapters. In this book Swain teaches you just about everything from how to develop characters that your readers will really care about, to how to design your characters to fit the needs and style of your chosen market, genre, or story length. In between, Swain covers techniques for writing dialogue, describing your characters, building your story around the people that you created for it, and how to motivate your characters.

Although Creating Characters was written for novice writers, even more experienced writers are likely to find some useful information in this book. In addition, while the book's main focus is on creating story people, it also provides information that will help you move your story forward and to make a solid, emotional connection with your readers.

The book is written in a friendly, almost chatty style, and it includes numerous examples and tips that will help you to put the information contained in this book into use. If this book is any indication, Swain must have been a phenomenal teacher. He provides a tremendous amount of information within the pages of this book, and his explanations are so clear and easy to understand that it is a pure pleasure to read. Simply put, Creating Characters is a phenomenal resource, and one that should be read and studied by anyone interested in writing fiction. It not only teaches you the techniques for creating and using characters in your story, but it will also help you to think more clearly about your story, its structure, and the message that you want to convey through it. Creating Characters is a must-have reference book for all new writers, as well as for those looking to more finely hone their craft!


Other writing books by Dwight V. Swain include: