Without a compelling main character, your writing will fall flat. Here are three fun and easy ways to create amazing main and secondary characters. [Read more…]
I was halfway through writing my new novel, Key Largo Blues, when I realized that Jessie, the 24-year-old granddaughter of Frieda, didn’t have any flaws. I had to find some quick, and that’s how I discovered a fantastic tool for writers. [Read more…]
A friend says this has happened to her more than once. Yep, I’ve been there, too. I have two “practice novels” in a box under the bed. Here’s what happened to me, in part: Sometimes when I’m writing, a character will say or do something that takes the story in a different direction than I’d planned. That might be good, but not always. It might really, subconsciously, reflect a theme from movie I saw last night, or a book I’m reading. (I can be hopelessly derivative). You might let this go and see where it takes you, but sometimes you find yourself writing and not caring. A million other things seem more interesting. You want to give up.
Related: Have you ever told somebody about your story and had them say, “Hey, you know what you could do? Once your main character gets to Denver, she could…” and then they’re off to the races writing your story for you. I really hate when that happens. It just deflates my balloon, and I think I know why:
Writing is entrepreneurial. We are, whether we know it or not, solo businesspeople. When somebody comes along and tells us what we should write, it changes our relationship to our business. Now instead of being the boss, we feel like an employee. We’ve received an assignment. It might be exciting at first to follow that new leader, but then we run out of gas and find ourselves sitting in front of a stinking pile of paper, and it isn’t our own anymore.
If either of the above happen to you, try asking yourself, “What was I originally trying to say? What was it about my original idea that fired me up?” If you can find that ember again and fan it, you might be able to get back on track. (and save the digression piece for a later short story or twist).
Amy Bloom crafts such great characters that you love them even when they’re kind of nasty. How does she do it? I just finished her latest collection of short stories, “Where the God of Love Hangs Out,” and I still find myself thinking about the characters as if they were real people who have gone on with their lives after I closed the book.
In his blog, storyfixer Larry Brooks tells us how to develop three-dimensional characters. In short, here are the three dimensions:
First dimension: what you see as the character first appears. Second dimension: what’s going on in the character’s mind. Third dimension: what action the character takes. You can get more details here: http://storyfix.com/the-three-dimensions-of-character-development.
In my critique group we have a cynical expression: good luck. This comment is delivered at the end of an especially complex critique. As in, now that I’ve finished telling you why I think your character isn’t true to her nature anymore (with examples) or why it appears you’re drifting away from the story question and/or leaving hanging threads…Good luck! Meaning I’m glad it’s your problem to fix, not mine. There’s also an implication of this: writing is a bitch. Why are we subjecting ourselves to this? We have lives. We’re not being paid. We’re obviously stupid with a dash of mentally ill. Perhaps. And then we laugh and get back to work.
Did you ever want to get even with somebody by putting them in your book? Don’t waste your time.
I always regret it when I create a character because I have a beef with someone or because there’s somebody who is so appalling or frustrating that I just have to write about them. They always end up looking cartoonish or pointless. You can’t put a person in a story for your own gratification alone, which totally blows the idea of getting even with anybody through your writing.
Bummer, huh? So here’s your bottom line: if it doesn’t SERVE THE STORY, it shouldn’t be in there.