Writing Characters Wholl Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel
Or a friend of mine, Tim Harford, writes books about economics in which he makes economics about life. You can't go wrong really if you make your books about people and life. Think of things like recipe books. This is how I do it. I created the sense of being a teacher there, that holding the hand of the reader, which is what I do when I mentor people too. It's a very good way of getting the reader to engage with you as the teacher and the persona and their company, really.
Any book you read, you're spending time in the company of the writer. Joanna: Some nitty-gritty questions, because there's so much in your book; it's really hard. So I thought I'd ask you, a protagonist being, whatever the main character is, the main person in the book. Joanna: Yeah, well, I just thought I better choose three, otherwise that'll be the only question.
Roz: The hardest balance to strike is making the character likable, and what I often find is that novice writers, they try very, very hard to create a saintly paragon who everybody likes, nobody dislikes, they can never do one bad thing. But often, there are other characters that are more relaxed. They'll let them have a flaw or two, a bit of bad temper like we all do, things that make them impatient. You have got to like them. They are just too much.
Writing Fiction: Bring Your Characters To Life With Roz Morris
It's humanity we connect with. If you think of The Hunger Games, she's a strong protagonist, Katniss, but she isn't exactly that likable. She's actually quite intolerant, prickly bad tempered, but we connect with her humanity and her sense of being in a very difficult situation. And she's got people she cares about, and things that they drive her to do, and she's got her own impulses that she has to balance.
And that makes us connect more. We kind of need to engage with some of the rough sides as well. So, normally, I think that even if you've got a protagonist who's thoroughly nice…Katniss isn't thoroughly nice. But if you've got someone who is just yummy person you've got to hug, they are in their comfort zone when they're being like that. And everybody is nice when they're in their comfort zone. These are the places where they might get a little bit irritable or intolerant or there are things that get their goat, and that starts to show who they really are.
And then further outside of that, you can find places where they're really uncomfortable, which I call that the war zone, and you can really get characters to discover who they are.
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That could be physical danger. It could be something like bereavement or any extreme situation, or it could be another person who brings out the worst in them, and that could be an antagonist or it could be an actual villain. We'll talk about that later. But yes, there are ways that you can find even your nicest character's weak spots.
That's very important. It goes a long way towards making the reader like them. Another big mistake is not plugging the reader into the character's internal life.
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So that means it's hard to understand what actually matters to them, because everybody needs something they want or something they want to prevent, because that drives the story, and that also makes them stick with the bad things that are going to happen rather than just give up. And so, early on you need scenes that establish this, and establish them as individual people. And usually, a good way to do this is to find what frustrates them and makes them feel something's got to change, maybe bored of life on their dull planet, or they wish they could grow up faster, or solve a world problem.
And so what the writer does is they'll show us a bunch of things happening that make the character exasperated, but they don't show us how the character feels about them. Usually when they're writing the scene, they're really immersed and they're probably feeling the character's emotions, but they assume that we know how the character feels.
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Everybody will understand the character feels crushed. You might feel liberated, or fearful, or vengeful, or a mix of lots of those things. Now which is it? And if you're including that scene to show us who the character is, we need to see what they felt; we don't need to guess it, because we'll make the wrong guess. They might not feel as we do. Now, later in the book, you don't have to spell things out nearly so much. But early on, if you don't show a reaction, the reader assumes that there wasn't one, and that this didn't matter.
That's not what you want. That's a real biggie.
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I see that so often. But there's no reaction, so it looks like it didn't. Roz: Yes, certainly. If a scene does more than one thing, then that's great because you feel that you've seen something very significant. And if every scene feels significant, then it pulls the reader along.
Writing Characters Wholl Keep Readers Captivated Nail Your Novel
It makes the book feel like it's moving fast. And another writing principle it illustrates is show not tell, which people say all the time, and writers can never be told it often enough. And the third mistake — you wanted three — enigmatic characters. We love to write about people who are strange or mysterious, but it's very easy to make them empty instead of mysterious, because we don't want to show too much but we want to preserve this intrigue.
But we have to show something to keep that intrigue. Now, we can't show that internal life, because if you show how these mysterious characters feel about things, what makes them tick on the inside, you've destroyed the mystery. But you have to show something.
www.newyorkethnicfood.com/wp-content/anthology/secret-treasures-of-blackston-lake-the-blackston-lake-saga.php Again, what writers often do is just leave it blank. They don't show us anything about how the character is feeling about something. They're a complete blank face; nothing is really registering or affecting them.
A better way to generate a mystery is to make things that make the reader wonder if there's more there. And it's not by under drawing them, it's by creating conundrums. So you might have dates that don't add up, or things that other characters do that don't make sense. Certainly show them responding to things, but never letting on what they feel. So they keep their cards close to their chest but there are definitely a lot of cards there.
You have to give a sense of there being a lively consciousness and a big background that the reader wants to know about, but you don't actually show it from the inside. Joanna: As you're talking I'm thinking this almost like a hierarchy of character that you do or that you see in books. And as a writer, we kind of go through from the very basic genre type of novel where the character is important but it may well be underneath the plot. Like you're talking about a mysterious character there, and that seems to me to be like an advanced character tip that you kind of get to.
Well, I just say this from my perspective because I'm writing novel number four right now. Whereas you're like 15 or something. Over time, you understand yourself more, so you can write into your characters more. Roz: That's a very interesting question because we're all in danger of making characters who are carbon copies of us , and that's possibly because we can't see that there are actually a lot of ways that we could write from the inside of a character but create different characters. Probably the easiest way to describe it is, if you imagine there are lots of situations in life where we might be slightly different people.
So you might have the mode that you draw on when you're doing a speech, and you might have another mode that you draw on when you're getting deep into the writing, and they both feel like quite different people.