Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ethos, Pathos, Logos and Fiction Writing Part 1

Normally, when we hear the concept of Ethos, Pathos and Logos, we hear it with communications and argumentation. For the next three days, however, I want to extend this idea to your fiction writing. So, today is Part 1 - ETHOS.

Let me begin first with explaining the idea of Ethos, Pathos and Logos. This is an idea that comes from early philosophers and deals with the connection to the audience, the language used and the arguments used. In simple terms, effective argumentation or communications will balance the three of these elements depending on the situation. This does not mean that all are equal. There are times that one or two elements may be stronger, but they all have to be balanced and working together.

Ethos is the element that bridges the connection between the audience and the speaker. In fiction writing, this is connection between the author and the reader.

For an author, the biggest connection you can make with your reader is through the characters you created. The more of a connection you can make to the general public reading your story the better the chance people will have a "buy in" to your story.

I think a great example of this would be THE BREAKFAST CLUB. When the movie was first released, and even still today, many relate to the story simply because of the similarities of the at least one of the characters to each individual. Because we can relate to the characters, the emotional impact of the story becomes stronger.

I bring this up because there are a lot of stories I pass on because the author has created a story that is so extreme and so manufactured that readers would never make that connection. In other words, the author has created such an extreme back story that a reader will not be able to relate. Sure, some of the things that happened to the character might be similar, but when an author goes overboard, that connection is lost.

You can also look at how the characters act, behave and speak. These characters have to be real. Even the Vampires, Aliens and Fae characters need to have a human quality. Think of Elrond and Frodo from LORD OF THE RINGS. These characters react just the way we would in these situations. This is real.

So, think about your characters. Can people really relate to the characters? Is your plot over-riding the characters? You might want to make those changes.

Tomorrow - PATHOS.


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