Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Thinking about character

Character is definitely one of the hardest things about writing for me. I'm not particularly good at coming up with characters who are unique, witty, funny, etc. etc. I think it's incredibly hard to do, honestly, but I've promised that next time around, as I'm drafting, I'm going to dig deeper from the get-go. I'm going to spend more time on character, because I really, really need to.

My next book, THE GIRL IN THE TOWER (March 2016, Henry Holt), went through a lot of revisions, and what happened during the lengthy process was that the main character, Violet, really came into her own. The girl you will see is quite different from the girl in the manuscript that sold five or so years ago. And thank goodness! She is a girl I admire, one I want to know, one that makes me so proud to be a girl. But it took a lot of work to get there. And I've realized I don't always put in the work that I need to with my characters - to make them all they can be.

I know some people have issues with THE HELP, and I'm not going to discuss those things here because they aren't relevant to this post. But what struck me about that book back when I read it, and even now, years later, are those characters and how they were different from each other, each special in her own right, and how much I grew to LOVE them. I mean, I LOVED THEM. I didn't want to return the book to the library because I was going to miss them - as if they were living and breathing inside that book.

I think writers know deep down that character really is THE most important part of a story. But we forget it, because when you're trying to sell a book, it's all about the hook - the plot. "Oh that sounds so good," you want people to say.

But after you've read a book? The plot isn't gonna be the reason you want to share it with the world. It's probably part of it, certainly. I mean, it has to work and work well and have the majority of people cheering at the end. Still, the characters are going to be what makes people fall in love. It's the characters people remember years and years later.

Scarlett and Rhett
Atticus and Scout
Edward and Bella
Remy and Dexter
Hazel and Augustus

and most recently

Olly and Maddy (Everything, Everything, which seems to be flying off the shelves)

There's always more work to do for writers. More things to learn. Always. Which I guess keeps things interesting, right?

Have a great week!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post. It's a great reminder for me because I also struggle with character. I was watching Season one of Felicity the other day (because I prefer the 90s to the present) and something that struck me was an episode where Ben's character got fleshed out a bit. He's sort of mysterious to begin with, but in taking a drama class, he's required to give a presentation/talk about an object that means something to him. He has to describe the object objectively first... what's it feel like. Are there straight edges? Curves? Is it cold or warm feeling? Etc... Watching that scene caused me to realize that none of my characters in my WIP have any meaningful objects in their lives. It inspired me to go back and write an entire chapter about my character finding his meaningful object, and then I hope to be able to weave it into the later chapters as well.

    All of that is to say that I can definitely relate to this post. Thank you! :-)