Forum: Keep Characters Real

Many of you know that our heroine is doing a Major Overhaul and Revision of Bk1 in her series, dear Readers. Hack and slash, rip and recreate, gnashing of teeth and hoping the great rumpus begins soon. I wrote it before I had a clue what I was doing, so it’s a challenge. The main characters are well-drawn, but I discovered today that the villains were anything but. Hey, I knew what they were like, what sorts of people they were and why they did as they did. Why didn’t the reader?

It’s like vitamins: it’s not enough just to own the bottle. You have to use them. The detailed description in your mind about your character, from mindset to clothing, is lost on the reader without some sense of them in the narrative. Mind you, I do not suggest spoon feeding every little detail. Readers like to make up their own details. They shouldn’t have to make up the character, though.

Many new links tonight to offer food of thought, so let’s dive in.

I loved William H. Johnson‘s article in Life through the Prism titled How I Auditioned a Sorceress. His debut novel The Dark Province: Son of Duprin is due shortly. Similar to the Character Interview, but with a twist, William tells the story of choosing an important character.

Bookends, LLC’s blog has an intriguing article, particularly for those who are writing anything historical (spec, romance, alternate or straight historical fiction, among others). Jessica Faust wrote Fiction with Nonfiction Characters. As an example of her response, she says, “How would you write about the Civil War without including at least some reference to some of the most famous generals this country has ever seen?” It’s my feeling that in any historical form of fiction, reference to (if not appearance of) nonfiction characters lends a reality to the tapestry being woven. One must research well, of course, and use it all so sparingly.

Just as important as creating your character is the ability to sustain the reader’s sense of engagement with that character. Lynn Price of Behler Blog wrote an article about this titled Sustaining Sympathy for your Characters. This article’s worth a good look if your character arc is becoming mushy along with your character.

Well-known author Holly Lisle has a good deal of information on her site. Her article How to Create a Character is no exception. So much good information, from how to flesh out the character to how to present him/her/it into the novel. I recommend this article and the site highly.

In This Business of Writing, C. Patrick Shulze teaches us 4 Steps to Character Development. In the article, he takes us through the creation of his characters from scratch. Whether you follow his – or anyone else’s! – techniques to the letter, you’re sure to glean some information you can use from articles such as this very good one.

Andy Shackcloth‘s well done blog Shack’s Comings and Goings includes an article I find fascinating on the subject. It’s titled Writing Characters Using the Proust Questionnaire. Quite a questionnaire it is, too. Andy leads the reader through the whole process. Personally, I think it’s impossible not to have a good grasp on your character once you take the time Andy describes.

I know we’ve covered elements to do with developing characters before. I felt it was a good time to take another look. Without excellent characters, a novel stands little chance of finding representation much less success in the long run. Take the time to get them right.

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2 thoughts on “Forum: Keep Characters Real

  1. Jamie D. (@Variety Pages) February 24, 2010 at 4:53 pm Reply

    Great post, Jess…and so true. Excellent links as well – thanks for this wonderful reference. 🙂

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen February 25, 2010 at 4:15 am Reply

      I’m glad it’s helpful, Jamie. Thanks for letting me know.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

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