Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I'll toss my computer!

I'll do it. I swear I will. Well, I won't at the cost of my computer, but I can honestly tell you, that there are more partially read stories on my hard drive than I can count. Normally, my biggest issue relates directly to characterization.

On the top of my list is -- do the characters make sense?

Sounds like an idiotic question, but a lot of writers today are forgetting a high quality character is directly related to set-up. It is directly related to 'logic'. Can they think their way through the story? Do they actually think? Is the internal dialog interesting, intriguing, or is it just filler?

Let's take a deeper look at logic.

From the very beginning, the characters are the stars of your story. You introduce them, hopefully with flair, and start them on a logical path, which is your plot or in the very least relates to your plot, and are off on journey to the end of the story.

Here's one of the biggest problems that creeps in. A writer has to know their characters. They can't be logical if an author doesn't get in their heads and relate this information to the reader. I see more authors who are just spitting out cookie-cutter characters because they buy into the old adage, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. I apply myself to the other side of the coin, 'variety is the spice of life'.

The second problem comes from what sends most e-publishers into a major apoplexy. I want their backstory. Not three chapters of it, but enough to understand what on earth is going on with them. Give me more than the tidbit. A reader wants a firm understanding in a few paragraphs so they can wrap their brain around who these characters are.

Get out of cliché. Big, big, big deal here. I heard from one agent friend the other day who said, so much of the same, so little time. Get some realism into your archetypes and give it credence rather than this, 'oh, I read this in a NYT bestseller, so I'll write it'. No. No. No. Work your characters so they are individuals. Readers want characters they can fall in love with and root for. Give them real reasons to do what they do rather than try to fit them into the plot.

Watch your emotional thrust. Emotions can't be a skipping stone across a pond. They have to ascend and descend logically. It's a process that takes time, but whenever you edit a chapter highlight the emotions so you can clearly see the thrust. Be very careful that a character, and I see it more on the heroine's side, isn't bipolar where they are one minute happy, the next sad, and less than a breath later, they're furious. Unless this is portrayed correctly and in context to the scene, this will confuse the reader.

I'm sure I'll think of a couple more, but these are the biggest ones I've seen lately.

Tell me, what turns you off when it comes to characters?

Until next time – cheers and happy writing,



Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

Characters that don't make sense! That really anooys me big time. I mean, the basic thing a reader would expect is to grasp the GMC of a character. Otherwise how can you expect the reader to first, understand what your character is up to, and second, the whole lot of 'whys' inherent to a plot. A plot that doesn't have me asking 'why' is just a meandering stream going through pleasant settings.

A lot of writers think their readers are dumb, so they dumb-down a story to the point where there is no compulsion at all to read the story.

Another of my peeves is polarized characters, but I'm keeping that for my post tomorrow!

Good posts again, T.J.



Sandy said...

LOL T.J., I've been working on my heroine, so she's not so bi-polar. Grin.