Monday, August 24, 2009

On Writing Character Pieces

I love stories that involved really getting to know characters through their simple intereactions during the day. Sure, every now and then, a story with a lot of adventure and excitement is great, but sometimes, you just want to "hang with friends." These "character driven" stories are the exact type I have been looking for in women's fiction submissions, and yet, too often, the stories fall short. Why? the author doesn't trust the characters enough to carry the story and end up filling their lives with busy work.

I have referred to this movie before but I think it deserves a second mention (and most likely more to come). BEFORE SUNRISE is a wonderful storyabout two characters spending less than 24 hours together, talking and getting to know each other in Vienna. Nothing more. But what makes the story so amazing is the fact that you see growth and you really do get to know each other.

When it comes to writing, this same type of story can also fill the reader with a sense of not just being there, but sharing in the experiences with the characters. Books like 1000 DAYS IN TUSCANY do just that. These aren't books you rush through but those you savor and just enjoy. Even now that I have finished the book, I still will pick it up and open to any page to just take in the moment.

So, how do you do this when it comes to writing? Guess what? There are just two things that are crucial. The first is to let the dialogue flow and the second is the narration.

In terms of the dialogue, let the characters talk. If they are sitting around on a porch enjoying the sunset over a glass of wine, let them talk. Think about conversations like this you might have. Everything isn't always about the plot of the day, but sometimes about silly mundane things. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as there is some growth taking place for the characters and that mundane talk leads to an element in the plot.

The second element is narration. Too often, I see writers use the narration simply as a back story dump. The other person in the conversation says something and the main character immediatly has to "think about" that piece of crucial information the readers need to know later on. Instead of doing this all of the time, give the character a chance to reflect on the other person. Reflect on themself. Give us a chance to get into their emotions on how they feel. Paint a picture. Remember, everything doesn't have to be about work.

In the end, if you want to write a character piece like this, one that allows the reader to just talk about the characters as if they are your friends, then you have to think of them as real people. You have to bring us into their lives.

Best of luck with your writing this week!


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