Tag Archives: character

Get Inside The Head of Your Character

One of the toughest parts of writing is fitting yourself into the teeny mind of your characters. While you get to spend days/weeks searching through the lives of your characters, the reader may only have hours to experience the depth of a character.

What happens in your head...spills out in the paper in the mind of the writer.

So, the most daunting task is creating that character to encompass the full extent of their worth to their own story. I’m not talking about the characters that pop in and out of a scene. I’m referring to the main character: the one whose story the author is telling. As a new, determined writer to the field, I’m incredibly aware of the things I don’t know. Although they tell me to write what I do know, I find myself learning more about the things I’m writing than I knew before.

For instance, it is common knowledge that we take reality and place bits if not large portions into fiction (all of it if you’re non-fiction). It is also true that many writers find comfort in writing characters in the image of themselves. (How many books have you read of Stephen King’s that feature a writer/teacher struggling with drugs/alcohol? Too many to count!) My stories have already featured the many versions of myself I wish existed and the ones I fear could exist in parallel universes.  It may seem simple to get inside your own head to make a character from yourself. The truth is that the hardest character to get inside the head of is your own. I know finding my place in the world is one difficult task, but finding yourself in situations that may never occur are the most unpredictable to write even when you know who you are.

EMPHASIZE

What’s even more difficult for a writer is deciding how to put a character’s thoughts on the page. It may seem like a simple style decision. It could end up cluttering up your paragraphs. I  made my first big decision, in the short beginning of my career, to make all of my characters’ thoughts in italics. I haven’t planned out the specifics (whether to note the thoughts with: I wonder or she thinks) just yet. However, the path is clear for me. It makes my life so much easier to know I don’t have to worry about quotes in the right place or even phrasing if I don’t want. The best part about the decision to go TEAM ITALICS is that it is a popular style of writing thoughts for about the past 50 years. It’s safe to say with this decision made, I’ll at least have some room between my lines for agents, editors, and publishers to see the worth in my writing.

How do you write character’s thoughts? Italics? Underline? Quotes? Which way do you think is easiest for the reader? What way do you think the future of writing is going?

Make sure you check out “Somewhere: Part 3” in my Fiction-Read and React section! It’s definitely worth a read.

Happy reading/writing!

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How to Make Realistic Characters

For all the writers out there, here is a helpful blog post dedicated to helping you to write the best quality stories. The post “Why Your Novel Characters Need Real Flaws” describes a way to enhance your novel characters and make them more realistic.

http://www.rachellegardner.com/2012/02/why-your-novel-characters-need-real-flaws/

The post begins by addressing the definition of real flaws in characters. You’re attempting to make real people out of your imagination and addressing the personality of the characters.

“It’s a flaw that affects those around your character in a significant way, a weakness with serious consequences, not just angst or temporary hurt feelings.”

When you realize a character is forming in your mind, usually it takes a life of its own rather quickly. Filling out a character sheet helps you to figure out the finer points of who a character is, but it takes a lot of time to develop flaws in characters. Unless it’s a villain, we don’t want our characters to have things wrong with them. We want them to be good and overcome their flaws without too many obstacles. We don’t want them to have negative personality traits that make them unlikable.  When you allow your character to do bad things, the reader doesn’t necessarily agree and want to continue reading. You’re faced  with the task to either be true to the story (what the character wants to do) and making the reader happy. Ideally, you want to achieve both, which creates a good story from good writing.

Sometimes it helps to have someone show you what makes a good character. By reading other writers, it helps you understand how they develop good characters or bad ones. If you can believe and relate to a character, it usually means that the flaws in the character are realistically written. The post goes on to explain the difference between cosmetic flaws (that writers tend to write) and real flaws that make characters like real people.

Every cosmetic flaw is a victimless half of the real flaw it replaces. Here are two examples:

Cosmetic character flaw: Insecurity. Its real counterpart: envy and sabotage

Cosmetic character flaw: Fearfulness. Its real counterpart: disloyalty under pressure

The cosmetic flaws are petty things. Things that writers think will give the character a realistic personality, but it actually creates an illusion of real flaws. Being “politically correct” or “sugar-coating” the problem masks what is really underneath. They might seem like a nice way to put a flaw so that it doesn’t hurt the reader, but it doesn’t make the character more realistic. The writer is playing God and sticking a mask on the character that wasn’t supposed to be there.

The question the writer of the blog poses is which flaws create good writing. If you want to write fiction that doesn’t affect its readers, write with cosmetic flaws. If you want your writing to create a reaction from the readers that changes their lives, you use real flaws. To put it simply, real is better than fake. Fiction may be created from the imagination, but it comes from the truth of the world around us. We need to tap into the emotions and basics of truth to build the story on. If we use characters that the reader feels are real, the fictional parts of the story are handled with ease.

I immediately felt a need to assess my characters after reading this post and it ultimately changed my mind on character development. I knew that I needed to work on the flaws of a character so the reader accepts my stories better. I was able to focus on what I thought the flaws were in my main character, and change it to create a person rather than just a flat character.

What struggles do you have with characters? Is it in their flaws or in their actions?

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