Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday Motivation - on characters

"The characters in your story will not engross readers unless they are out of the ordinary. How can it be otherwise? In life, ordinary folk do ordinary things every day. How much of that do we remember? Precious little. In life and in fiction, when people act in ways that are unusual, unexpected, dramatic, decisive, full of consequences, and are irreversible, we remember them and we talk about them for years." ~ Donald Maass, from his awesome book Writing the Breakout Novel

Why do we love Charlotte so much? Because she's extraordinary. In her special, quiet ways, Charlotte does extraordinary things to help her friend Wilbur. And Wilbur, like us, is changed as a result of watching the kind and selfless actions of his friend. Extraordinary people (or spiders as the case may be) do that to a person, don't they? They make us want to be better humans (or pigs as the case may be).

These characters are why Charlotte's Web has been and continues to be one of the greatest children's books of all time.

This week, as I write, I'll ask myself, how can I make my main character more like Charlotte? Not literally, of course. After all, there can only be one Charlotte.



That's what I want my main character to be.

Do you have a certain character you think of sometimes, that makes you want to dig deep and write an extraordinary character?


  1. First to come to mind: all of the characters in ‘Brideshead Revisited’ since they’re so multi-faceted. Also, Melinda from ‘Speak’ by Laurie Halse Anderson.

  2. I try and remember this before I write the whole dang story! :)

  3. The characters in The 12 Houses Series by Sharon Shinn- I fell in the love wtih them, and I love the ensemble cast idea- I got so attached to those characters, and by the end felt like they were my best friends. Also, Sabriel by Garth Nix- she still has to overcome her own fears and doubts, but does it with such grace and courage that I loved her for that! I really hope my characters can have that same impact.