Friday, March 9, 2012

Staying within Character lines

I know I have several seasoned writers who stop in and share their thoughts on writing. It’s very helpful for the newer writers who have just dipped their feet in the blogging pool to hear how others write.
Today I thought we’d talk characters. You know, those people who make your stories shine. Those people that intrigue readers and push them from chapter to chapter at lightning speed.

How does one keep a reader interested?

By staying truthful.

Staying in line with your Character ARC is most important when telling a story. If you have a mean girl at school handing the girl she’s been torturing a cupcake (rather than shoving the frosted goodness in her face) would break character arc. After all, mean girls don’t change overnight.

You want your girl to be believable as well as gaining the trust of the reader.

I find creating characters to be the most thrilling part of storytelling. You, as a writer get to take those deep moments and breathe life into them through a character.

Have you ever been beat up, abused, or made fun of? I find releasing the angst and frustration into the character to be therapeutic. You’re allowing yourself to heal as well as truly allowing the reader and the character to feel the emotion you once felt.

That’s not to say that if you’ve never been abused you can’t write about it. I’m merely saying that there are several things that happen throughout life we as writers can connect with. Most of the stories we write have a lot to do with our lives or those around us.

I use a lot of my own life experiences to be able to reach the sorrow or fear I’m not always in tune with. We as humans want to remain happy as much as possible, but in storytelling we all know that wouldn’t be near as fun.

How do you stay in line with your character arc? What’s a piece of advice you could share on characters?

15 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I have very little in common with my main character. (Odd, huh?) But I create detailed character sheets before I begin writing. I detail how the character got to where he's at, which helps me to see where he needs to go.

SA Larsenッ said...

I have to admit; I do use a lot of my personal experiences in my writing and developing characters. Not to say that I use specific instances often, but rather the feelings/emotions I recall during those instances.

Advice: When I have a story idea and a main character comes to mind, the first thing I do for character development is write a beginning sentence about the character, a middle sentence about them (where I think they'll be during the muck of the story), and then an ending sentence that shows growth. This gives me a guideline of where I want to go with the MC and helps me stay on task. I also in corporate a character interview at the beginning.

Emily said...

Great advice! I haven't spent a lot of time writing fiction, but if I did I'm certain I'd draw from my own life. I just don't know any other way to be sure my writing is honest, or authentic.

Meredith said...

I can't stand when a character in a book I'm reading breaks character to advance the plot! It feels like cheating. Great advice!

Kittie Howard said...

I agree with Meredith. It's like cheating. Have a great weekend.

Angela Brown said...

Staying in character arc keeps the story believable. I like your example. If you do have the mean girl hand the geek a cupcake, there should definitely be tell-tale signs, like a smirk or a twitch of the lips as she's pasting some sort of facade then have the geek bite into it to discover something gross and disgusting, to which the mean girl bursts into maniacal laughter and points out how stupid said geek girl was for actually thinking things had changed.

I do this with the occasional character interview. Yes, I have a little chat with the character so I can see how they react to certain things. That way, when I write and place in certain predicaments, I ensure they react as THEY should.

Mindy McGinnis said...

I do have pieces of myself in there, but I definitely also have pieces of a better self, the person that I'd *like* to be. A little braver, a little saucier... well that might be bad... but you know what I mean!

Jeannie Miernik said...

I'm finding it tricky--and fascinating--to write characters in historical fiction. I have to consider their cultural context as well as internally consistent behavior.

For example, one of my main characters is "conservative" and "religious." In 10th century Europe. There is a sort of time-traveling element in which she meets another "conservative" and "religious" character from another century. Their beliefs and values are so different as to bewilder each other. The more I research those time periods, the more I have to refine and rethink those characters.

Jai Joshi said...

I agree with your points on staying truthful to the character.

When I'm creating a character I first start with some essential basics. I think about what the characters basic need is - what drives them to do everything they do. It could be love, freedom, peace, power, security, anything like that. Then I think about what they're fatal flaw and greatest strength is. Knowing these aspects of the characters personality allows me to understand and predict their actions in any situation.

Jai

Clare C. Greenstreet said...

There's is always a bit of me in my characters. I try to keep true to them, and am starting to realise that one of my characters has changed a lot during the story as I'm finding it harder to put in funny one liners from her like in the first book.

Teenage Bride said...

being truthful goes a long way... in real life as well as in what we read

good advice!

Amy Saia said...

There's definitely a little bit of me in each of my characters--but I actually think it's more fun to write about someone who's more daring, or crazy or whatever. In some completely strange way I feel like I know more about the human race now by having written fiction.

Interesting topic!

K. Turley (Clutzattack) said...

Having the man girl hand out cupcakes would make sense though if they were tainted with dog poop.

Janet Johnson said...

Too funny about the cupcake comments. So many options with character arcs!

I personally try to put myself in their spot and really think about what I'd do if it were me . . . and sometimes I would do things that definitely won't help my plot. But the plot would sink if the character isn't following her true arc.

The other thing is that I read it out loud to hubs. He has no problems telling me when someone is acting out of character. :)

Leslie Rose said...

I try and keep relatability on the front burner as well as the character acting true to their goals and faults.