Posts Tagged ‘characterization’

Get Wild

Think of your favorite characters from recent books and film. Were they self-effacing and dependable? Did they wear beige and hate to tell a lie? I’m guessing not!

Why is it then, that we’re writing these folks into our stories?  I’m reading a book by a famous author who is not selling as well as he used to. His major character this time is rather bland. True, he has a rebellious streak. Yawn. It’s not enough.

You have boring friends. Sorry.

We may write bland characters because these are the ones we know. You and I have friends who are real estate agents, teachers, landscapers, programmers. They may also be avid rock climbers, devoted to their children, and belong to Friends of the Library. We don’t, most of us, know felons, revolutionaries, people who have survived airline disasters, flamboyant dressers, egotistical artists, cynical priests, or gifted loners who have lost their entire family. But why let that stop us? Part of our talent as writers is to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes for awhile. Read More…

The Heart of Your Story

Today I’m putting down yet another book that I hoped would grip me in a dramatic embrace. Nope, it didn’t. I’m quitting on page 80. If the author hasn’t snared me by now, she never will.

While there are a slew of reasons this heralded steampunk novel didn’t grab me, the most important is one that seems minor to many people, but is central to me: passion. The protagonist is quirky and courageous. But those qualities feel like trappings. The novel is tepid reading. I think the reason is that this story has no hot conviction, no basic truth at its core.

It has nothing to say. Read More…

Deep Character

Believable, empathetic characters are central to a novel. Oddly, though, they can get short-changed by writers. We know that readers look for characters they can relate to and root for. Then we deliver generic, oddly bland protagonists. Why?

Generic or Genuine?

I think it’s because writers bring an assumed empathy to their central characters. They imbue them with an unquestioned magnetism. Everything we know about driven, memorable people gets added to the psychological shopping cart we push through the novel. Problem is, it never gets on the page. Read More…

Connecting Characters

You’ve got your novel’s cast of characters, let’s say. You’ve carefully considered the central conflict between two characters.You’ve thought through who else hinders–and helps–your protagonist. Some of these may feature prominently, heading up subplots.

If you’re inspired by Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, you may have discovered a character or two with dramatic archetype functions such as the mentor, threshold guardian, or herald. Fun stuff.

More work lies ahead. Read More…

Characters: Stereotype or Stellar?

I think we need a new definition of the stereotyped character. The old one: round vs. flat just isn’t working anymore. It’s not about shape, it’s about depth. I don’t care what their favorite book is, or even what they’re scared of (snakes vs. rats, for example.) We give characters quirky properties and call it good enough when it’s not.

I keep learning about characterization. Every time I think I’ve got it down, I realize I’m slipping into stereotypes. But below, please find my new (improved!) insight. It is not only an effective way to draw a memorable character, it is much easier than painting a labored picture of them. Read More…