Thursday, December 4, 2008

Know Thy Characters

"You have to get into the head of your bad guy and understand why he acts the way he does." -- Gillian Roberts in You Can Write a Mystery.
This is true of the good guy or any character worth expending words on -- even the snooty waiter who does no more than spill the soup. When I first began writing, I thought I was into my characters’ heads. I’ve learned since that I wasn’t into them as much as I needed to be. For a recent piece (that was rejected for publication), I wrote the story, then read it from the point of view of each of the two characters. I made some adjustments after doing so when I realized that one of them was out of character in a scene. Looking at the piece from the mind of one character helped me clarify why she acted/talked the way she did. The editor was kind enough to supply a brief comment on why she didn’t accept the story. It wasn’t because the characters weren’t well drawn. It was because of a flaw in the plot line. That’s something I can work on to prepare the piece for resubmission elsewhere.

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