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The Compass of Character

Now Available from Writer's Digest (a division of Penguin Random House)

"David Corbett is the grand master of character development."
   —Author Donald Maass

Just as a compass provides direction for an explorer, so motivation provides direction for characters in fiction. The "compass" of character motivation is composed of four points: Lack, Yearning, Resistance, and Desire. In The Compass of Character you'll learn to deeply consider the key question "What does my character want?" and learn techniques to answer that question by writing realistic and empathetic characters without falling into formulaic, unsatisfying results that only diminish the character. Bestselling author and acclaimed writing instructor David Corbett provides writers with the essentials for building characters with motivations that range from clear to complex by exploring topics such as:

The key to fascinating characters is rendering subtle inner states in straightforward external circumstances, which requires a fundamental understanding of the simple building blocks of complex motivation as they manifest themselves in behavior, where complexity of purpose collides with the messy, indifferent world. The Compass of Character is the one book that can guide writers to that end with both instruction and inspiration.

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"A compass points four ways and so does Corbett, adroitly reconciling the complex interplay of forces in every character's life so that writers can create true depth on the page. His exercises make that complexity doable, and the examples he provides are remarkably incisive. If you want to know what makes made-up characters feel 100% real, let The Compass of Character be your guide. David Corbett is the grand master of character development."
   —Donald Maass, The Emotional Craft of Fiction

"With a deft hand, David takes us past writing clichés, charting a new course forward into developing resonant characters in film and print today. His insights have the potential to revolutionize the way writers understand the characters they develop. If you're serious about your storytelling, don't miss The Compass of Character."
   —Steven James, bestselling author of Story Trumps Structure

"You won't find a more thoughtful, more human approach to crafting characters than David Corbett's. Whether you're looking to add nuance and depth to your cast, or to heighten an arc with authentically high stakes, The Compass of Character will point you steadily north."
   —Jessica Strawser, bestselling author of Not That I Could Tell

"One of the best teachers today. Innovative, pragmatic and applicable. I read David Corbett before writing each novel."
   —Robert Dugoni, international bestselling author of The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell

"Corbett takes the obtuse, the dense, the high falutin, and he boils it down to practical advice. Every storyteller is trying to find lucid ways to unpack narrative construction, and he's done it flawlessly here. Corbett is a craft ninja."
   —Joshua Mohr, best-selling author of Sirens

"I looked forward to reading The Compass of Character with equal parts anticipation and dread—the anticipation of someone who knows that every time David Corbett talks about writing, it's a masterclass in craft, and the dread of a writer who suspects Corbett's new book will expose all the things I've been doing wrong all along. Ended up being a little of both."
   —Tim Maleeny, award-winning author of Boxing The Octopus

The Art of Character

Creating Memorable Characters, for Fiction, Film and TV

"The Art of Character is a writer's bible that
will lead to your character's soul."
   —Bestselling Author Elizabeth Brundage

With its:

The Art of Character is destined to become the one desktop reference every writer requires on the craft of characterization.

The Art of Character delves deeply and thoughtfully into the human heart of characterization, showing students and readers how to plumb the rich source material in their own lives and the world around them to fashion credible, compelling characters. No book on character has ever addressed this material as profoundly, extensively or pragmatically.

Most importantly, unlike mere craft manuals and how-to books, The Art of Character is elegantly written: a thoughtful, literate gem. It is a gratifying and illuminating—a delight to read—and will not just instruct but inspire.

Read an excerpt

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"The Art of Character is phenomenal. It’s like there’s a key to every door worth opening and a map for every maze to escape from. I only regret not having read it a decade ago. IMO, there’s you, Egri, and Bob McKee."
   —Brian Deer, author of The Doctor who Fooled the World and Blind Trial
Brian Deer

"I have finished The Art of Character, and will no doubt read it several times more. Couldn't put it down. I love learning more about my craft, and this was a treat. I'm sure my next two books, currently in the planning stage, will be far richer for it. Full of ideas. It was not only educational, it was full of wisdom for life."
   —Anne Perry, International Bestselling Author

"David Corbett has written a wise, inspiring love letter to all the imaginary creatures inside our minds.... I predict that massively underscored copies of The Art of Character will rest close at hand on writers' desks for many years to come."
   —Bestselling Author Cheryl Strayed

"Indispensable. Few are the writer's guides that are written as beautifully, cogently, and intelligently as a well-wrought novel. This is one of those books."
   —Edgar®-winning Author Megan Abbott

"Corbett's The Art of Character is no "how to" book or "writing by numbers" manual. It is an artful testament to the writers' credo—that a story is only as affecting and meaningful as the characters who tell it—that writing, essentially, is character. Corbett writes with the grace and authority of a seasoned professional, but offers much more than the usual inventory of method and strategy. With clarity and compassion, he gets to the very thing that lies deep within us, that longing we share to discover that one distinct and authentic voice. The Art of Character is itself a work of art, an indispensible resource for writers of any genre, and a pedagogical tool for teachers of writing at any level."
   —Elizabeth Brundage, Bestselling Author of A Stranger Like You and The Doctor's Wife

"This fine book is about as thorough an examination of character and what it means in all sorts of imaginative writing as you're likely to find anywhere. This is an exploration of the phenomenon of character—in as wide a variety of fiction and drama as there is. It will help any writer create and sustain human beings who make you forget you're reading, who are alive, who are worthy of our attention and sympathy."
   —Robert Bausch, Prize-winning Author of Out of Season

"David Corbett, himself a master crafter of riveting and remarkable narratives, delivers up in this highly readable guide, a smorgasbord of smart examples of memorable characters from literature and popular culture, to create an addictive and helpful primer on this most central of narrative ingredients. Clear-headed and confident, Corbett takes us through the steps in a manner that resists formula while at the same time demystifying a process that has likely daunted every writer since Homer."
   —Robin Hemley, Award-winning Author of Turning Life into Fiction

Read more praise for The Art of Character

The Art of Character Chinese Art of Character
The Chinese-language edition (left) & Spanish-language edition (right)


Essays from Believers, Agnostics, and Atheists


Edited by Victoria Zackheim

Delve into this thought-provoking collection of personal essays from award-winning and bestselling authors who explore the perennial question: What do I believe?

Whether believer, skeptic, agnostic, atheist, or something other, these twenty-four authors share a fascinating, daring, and multifaceted perspective on what faith means (or doesn't mean). The collection of personal essays includes bestselling authors such as Anne Perry, who writes about a deeply spiritual faith that embraces and sustains her through every step of her life. Caroline Leavitt writes about tarot cards, mediums, and quantum physics to explain her concept of faith. Afghan-American author Tamim Ansary beautifully captures his childhood curiosity amidst his Islamic views. There is the irrepressible Malachy McCourt's anti-religion rant, and then Pam Houston's signature wit and sense of irony, which gives the question of faith a surprising twist.

Honest, provocative, and candid, Faith begins a larger conversation and invites the question: What do you believe?

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"This collection of touching, honest, outrageous and outraged essays challenges all of us to explore our own personal truths. As we read, even those of us who are 'non-believers' are drawn into conversation with our better selves. That is the gift of this book."
   —Suzanne Braun Levine, author of Inventing the Rest of Our Lives