Monday, June 23, 2014

How do you reveal character?

I suppose there are many nuances to the revelation of character but for me the two most present in any work of fiction are what a character does and what he/she say and how these things direct his/her emotional and intellectual world.

Sometimes we try to tell how a character is feeling and that is that bad kind of telling that writing craft books are always decrying. (There is a good kind and I wish those books made this distinction and I'm sure some of them do but I've seen many that don't. Good telling--info that doesn't need to be shown...but that's another post). Also authors might think something to the point of exhaustion for both themselves and the reader.

So revelation of characters, in my humble opinion, should be shown through the action they take in the various situations that the story requires them to move through. These will be choices they make and others that are made for them and that they react to.

But for me--I LOVE DIALOGUE Yansky...what characters say to each other can reveal just as much. Each character tells a lot about who they are both in the way they say things and the things they say. Again sometimes they're initiating the conversation, moving it along, and sometimes they're reacting to what others have said.

Also dialogue shows the voices of characters who aren't narrating the story.  It not only gives them their say but shows who they are by the way they say what they say.

For me, a lot of how I get my characters comes from how they talk.

 Elmore Leonard, in talking about writing dialogue, said that he would let his characters talk and he'd follow the interesting ones. He'd kill off the ones who weren't interesting. Harsh? That's a writer for you.

What characters do and say are most important for me.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

the Walking the Dog School of Writing

There is so much on the net about the craft of writing.  Some good, some bad. Some good, in my humble opinion, is the simple advice to read a lot and write a lot. You must do these things to be a writer. I’ve written this advice myself. Simple but true. If you don’t like to read, you don’t have much chance of being a writer. You won’t get the nuances and subtleties of form and structure and language etc… And you have to write. That’s pretty self-evident.  You can’t finish work if you don’t write. So, internet writerly advice is often “butt in chair” and “just write” and things like this. While all this is true and, I’d add, reading up on craft, it’s also true that a lot of writing isn’t done when you’re writing.

Or, at least, for me.

A lot of writing is done when I walk the dog. So I would also advise that you consider this aspect of writing. Working out characters and what they do and have done to them is a lot of times accomplished when you’re doing something mindless like walking the dog. When I sit down to write, I do my best to be in my characters and their world and I try not to force things upon them. When I do, I usually head in the wrong direction. So a lot of times when I’m walking the dog, I’m thinking over questions about the story that have come up because of the writing I did earlier that day or the day before. There are always a lot of decisions to be made in any story.  Walking the dog is an excellent time to work on these problems. And it has an added bonus: it makes your dog happy.