Getting to Know Your Characters

Tate Street

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Happy Friday, novelists! I hope you’ve had productive weeks. Today we’re going to talk about character.

Imagine sitting in an otherwise empty room with a stranger. The lighting in the room is bad–you can’t really see the other person, but you do know she’s there. Eventually, you start to tell the stranger about her life. The more you talk, the more definition she gains. She may have aspects of you and/or people you know. You do this for an hour every day for several months.

That’s more or less your relationship with the main character of your novel.

Getting to know your protagonist can be one of the greatest challenges of novel writing. You have to understand her motivations and likeliest behaviors in any given situation. If she breaks type, you have to know why. And while a lot of that work gets done internally and then on the page, it…

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Short and Sweet Advice for Writers – Break Your Story Down to Build It Up.

Live to Write - Write to Live

VW bug cutawayWhen we read a finished story, whether a thousand-word piece of flash fiction of a thousand-page novel, we perceive it as whole. It’s similar to the way we see each other. You don’t think of your friend as a collection of distinct elements. You don’t perceive her as a particular combination of skin and hair and eyes, scarf and jeans and shoes. You don’t see the individual bones, muscles, or cells that make up her body. You don’t consciously perceive all the discrete events and experiences that make up her personality and character. You just see Jane.

Stories are like that. We experience a story as the sum total of its parts. And, as with a person, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Still, those parts are there. Without them the person or the story would not exist, at least not in the form you perceive.

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