Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Making Characters Stand Out

“Nothing is less compelling in a story than a character who acts like a million other characters you've encountered.” – Brandi Reissenweber in Gotham Writers' Workshop Writing Fiction
I try to make my characters stand out, mostly because I want the people I write about to interest me. But as you'll see below, I don't always succeed. I’ve also learned that I don’t have to like my characters to write about them. In fact, it’s more of a challenge if I don’t. How does one write a story about a character he doesn’t like and still care about the character's problem? I become that person, almost as if I’m in a trance. I find this helps me get over my dislikes, because I realize the person is not all bad (see Nobody’s Perfect).

My last story had two female characters in it -- in this case, I liked them both. After receiving a few critiques of the story, I realized one was better developed than the other, but neither was memorable. I became the main character and looked at the story from her point of view only. I learned that she was more than just a homeless woman and included a piece of her past in the story. I went through the tale once more writing as the other woman and found she was more than a victim. They were people with histories that were a part of who they were. I'd forgotten that.

Perhaps when I’m stuck on a story, I should write multiple versions in first person from each character’s point of view. I remember reading an article by an author who interviews her characters about the story. That sounds intriguing, too. Man, writing is hard work.

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