Friday, August 3, 2012

August Characters: Intro

Let's celebrate this lovely weather (ha, not--Seattle thinks April Fools is ALL summer long) by talking about characters. And I mean EVERYTHING characters. Main characters, love interests, villains, parents, siblings, the funny friend character (or as I like to call it, the Ron Weasely character), historical characters, contemporary characters, the after-school-special character, the rebel without a cause character. But what I really hope to achieve this month is to really demonstrate what it takes for us (the agents, editors, readers) to fall in love with a character, and what it will take for you (the writer) to build such a character.

When considering a project off the query or pitch, I often ask myself (or the writer during a live pitch) "What makes this character unique? Why will a reader fall in love with him/her?" If the query or the writer cannot answer this question, I have doubts that the character is fully developed. I get such answers as "her mother dies and she has to learn how to care for her four younger brothers" or "she never thought she was special before she got her powers" or "she's really snarky."

Sorry, but yawn. And, also, you didn't answer my question. That's all plot (except for the last one and seriously, who isn't snarky these days?). I want to know what makes your character her. (Executive decision made, I'm referring to characters as shes, sorry guys). Does she have daddy issues that make her incapable of forming trusting, true relationships? Is she so one track minded towards a goal that she doesn't care who she steps on to get there? Is she incapable of watching Free Willy without crying?

Have you ever gotten a rejection along the lines of "I just didn't fall in love with the character"? Character building might be your issue then. The plot might be fantastic, the writing solid, but your character is lacking spark. On Monday I'll talk about "normal" characters.

(You may recall my March Madness post "It's not me, it's you" in which I talked about characters. A few of my posts will be borrowing heavily from this, as I've been wanting to go in depth about characters for some time. You can read the post here to catch up/get ahead of the class.)

Happy writing!


Karen Baldwin said...

Yes, I have gotten remarks back from an agent saying she couldn't connect with my character. *light bulb went on here* Best rejection ever. I was grateful she took the time to identify a major flaw in my writing. I've since revised.

Lauren B. said...

Yay! I look forward to this line of posts. Characters are something I struggle with the most.

Heather said...

Thanks, I'm in the process of revising my m/s to make my characters stronger, and this has already helped. I know what makes her tick, I just have to make that present right from the start.

Darci Cole said...

I'm excited to hear what you have to say about characters, specifically villains. I've gotten a lot of comments that people "fall in love" with my MC and supporting cast, but my villains tend to feel rather cookie-cutter.

Also, (off topic) can you recommend any posts or articles on plot or structure? This is my weakest area, and I'd love to hear what you think makes a story good on that front. (If it's easier, you can let me know via Twitter, @darci_cole.)

Thanks for this blog, Vickie! I've found so much helpful information here. You're awesome!

Yummers! said...

I'm so glad that I ran into your blog... it's wonderful. So informative. I cant wait to make a list of my characters and make a list of what makes them unique. I usually curl up in bed at night with a book, but tonight I think it will be a legal pad and a pen.

I look forward to going back and reading your earlier posts.

Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Awesome. I'd love to hear your take on Characters. I'm so excited to hear how you're going to go in depth. Character building is something I've been working on recently.