After opening this book and glancing through, I made up my mind this would be my study book in 2015. I cracked the spine (which I never do) so it lies flat and have written up and down the margins, underlined and circled. If I wear it out, I’ll buy another one.
It’s not that there’s an earth-shattering new concept between the pages. I like this book because it makes me look at developing characters with fresh eyes and a new perspective, as well as reminding me why the basics still work.
Part One is Getting Started, and Chuck Wendig kicks it off with 25 Things You Should Know About Your Character. I camped out on #6 for a while: Not Likeability, but Rather Livability. “It doesn’t matter if we “like” your character…it only matters that we want to live with him. We must see something that makes us want to keep on keeping on…” I’ve long believed this about characters in the state of development: We can’t make real people do what we think they should do. We’re not them. We don’t think like them.
Characters are more realistic if they do things we would never do or behave in ways we don’t approve of. They are not all “us.” The most extreme example of this I can think of is Dexter. The writer developed a character completely outside our stratosphere of acceptable behavior, but he also gave him profound motivation, and through internal narration made him sympathetic. We knew why Dexter behaved the way he did and we cared enough about him that we didn’t want him to get caught.
In #19 Chuck adds to my thought: You Are Not Your Character, Except When You Are. “You take the things that have happened to you and you bring them to the character…Pull out the feelings.” Which is what I went into depth about in Writing With Emotion, Tension & Conflict. Learn the things that create emotion in you and use them to advantage in your story. This section also goes into choosing names and introducing your character for the first time.
Part Two is on point of view and Part Three dialogue. Part Four protagonists and Part Five antagonists. I have reread this section a couple of times. I enjoyed chapter 17 on antiheroes by Jessica Page Morrell . Examples are Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke, Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry and John McClane in Die Hard. Readers root for this character despite his flaws or the things he might have done. Ms. Morrell created roles for anti-heroes: Everyman, vigilante or tarnished knight, charming criminal (Ocean’s Eleven, To Catch a Thief), dark hero (Aliens), reluctant hero (Hans Solo), loser, outcast, screwball (Romancing the Stone), disgraced hero, oddball, rebel (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). There are a couple of good chapters on villains too.
Part Six is about supporting characters, Part Seven: conflict, Part Eight: motivation and relationships (Yours Truly has a chapter here titled Motivation and Realism, imagine that?) and Part Nine: character arcs. I’ve read the entire book through and have gone back to study different sections at a time. If you’re like me and always up for another book on the writing craft, this one is different enough and diverse enough to give you food for thought. If I whetted your appetite for The Complete Guide to Populating Your Fiction, leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for a copy of CreatingCharacters-The Complete Guide to Populating Your Fiction.http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1599638762
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Writing with Emotion, Tension and Conflict:
Today's highly competitive fiction market requires writers to imbue their novels with that special something - an element that captures readers' hearts and minds. In Writing With Emotion, Tension & Conflict, writers will learn vital techniques for writing emotion into their characters, plots and dialogue in order to instill that special something into every page.