Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - Characters and Strategy

Writing a novel seems to be circular. Characters drive the plot but the plot drives the characters. Sound confusing. Not really. The plot is the underpinning of the story and the characters are the exposed parts. Choosing the right characters to move the story forward takes strategy. Putting the wrong character in the lead can make a story fall flat. Usually in a story there are 3 characters who form a traingle. For the purpose of this we'll call them the hero, the heroine and the villain. These characters have relationships with each other and their actions and reactions are what drives the story from beginning until the end.. There are other characters in stories who relate to the three main ones and these form their own triangles or their own patterns of interaction.

Action bridges character and plot. How many times have you heard? He's acting out of character? If there's no good reason for this action the story will fall flat and flat stories aren't what writers strive for. How does one make the pieces fit together?

Consistency is one way. Check your characters to make sure their emotions flow in a consistent pattern through out your story. Don't have them loving an object, idea, or person one minute and hating it the next. Unless inconsistency is their nature. Even here you are being true to the character. A character like this would be one who responds to the person they are with. An interesting thought. Sort of like the Janus god that looks at the world through two faces.

Make sure the characters who are the focus of the story are strong enough to sustain the action. Whether you're writing a dramatic or a comedic story a weak character will make the action fall flat. Give your characters a backbone and make them want what they want with an internal passion.

Take your cahracters and raise them above the mundane or stock characters. Give them some complexity to make them larger than life rather than some ordinary person a reader doesn't want to know.

Believe in the characters you write. If you're developing a really evil billain, make sure you believe in this character. One of my favorite bad guys is found in Obsessions. Yes, he is evil but he's also human and I tried to show the human parts of his character as well as the inhuman parts.

Write about human emotions in your stories and don't throw in a character who seems to be driven by the plot. The plot is a road map of a journey taken by characters and the things that happen in the story are the results of the characters' actions. not the reverse.

Characters are chosen because of the plot you've designed but once on stage let the characters tell the story and move the plot forward. not the reverse.


Jennifer Probst said...

A really good lesson to always re-learn, thanks Janet!

Renee Simons said...

Well put, and important to remember.