Welcome to the world of unicorns.

Welcome to the world of unicorns.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Creating Memorable Characters

Today, I am hosting Chuck Bowie who describes how to make a character memorable and effective. Leave a comment for a chance to win one of his e-books.

Drawing great characters isn’t everything, but it cannot be underestimated. There’s a balance to writing, of course. My agent said any plot will get lost if the characters, exposition, setting, hook-and-addict first chapter, grammar and structure aren’t first rate. If you write characters that don’t ring true, you’re dead in the water. Imagine getting to page forty, or sixty, and you discover you don’t really like your protagonist. Why? Because you still can’t picture him, or he was tough on one page, and not consistently tough on other pages.

Not good enough.

At the beginning, you have to decide what kind of person each character is. After that they can change, but only if you introduce plot devices that cause them to change, and even then, it must happen over time. (The whole Freaky Friday thing where parent and child change brains can’t happen in every novel, right?) So, you really learn who this character is you’ve created. If they have mannerisms, they should be consistently applied. My protagonist is one of two characters who speaks in short sentences, sometimes ones that aren’t grammatically correct. He’ll say, for instance: “Want to live through the evening?” Care, in this case, must be taken, because you do not want the reader/editor to assume you don’t know bad grammar from good.

One test, after you’ve written a dialogue scene that you particularly like, is to read it aloud. You will know if it is awkward, clunky, or perhaps contains the less-than-perfect word. I did a reading from a work in progress this summer, and, during the dialogue, I was compelled to add a clarifying phrase that wasn’t there, because it should have been there. My protagonist walks into the bathroom in the middle of the night. The female lead, whom he is protecting, is sitting in her nighty on the toilet, holding his jacket. (She’s just discovered the jacket has $50,000 in the pocket.)

He glanced at his jacket, which was folded across her lap. “Cold?” he asked, his mouth forming a smile.

“No, and I don’t have a funny come-back for you.”

In the original scene, I hadn’t inserted the line where he glanced at his jacket. I feel it makes a big difference to the punchline. We learn so much about these characters by the way they interact with each other when stripped down to their underwear in the middle of the night. I’d like to think they learned a bit about each other, as well.

We all speak differently, with the exception of identical twins. It’s what makes us, well, us. And we owe that to our characters. As my agent said, “The plot will follow.”
~~~
Chuck Bowie is an East Coast Canadian writer. He’s just finishing his third suspense-thriller: Steal It All.

To purchase the first book in the series, Three Wrongs, you can go to this link:



To purchase the second book in the series, AMACAT, you can go to this link:




10 comments:

  1. That's great advice, Chuck. Dialogue is one of the best ways to reveal character. I liked your example. All the best with your third novel!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Helena. The way they talk, how they react, etc. says a lot about a person.

      Delete
    2. My agent said the best plot in the world won't fly, if the basic elements aren't done well, like characters.
      Thank you so much for your kind comments.

      Delete
  2. Great interview. Liked Chuck's advice and his presentation. I can already picture his protagonist. I may have to buy this one!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is so flattering! I wanted to write a suspense-thriller and tried my best to follow the general elements of that genre. But I love food, wine, travel and music, so they all crept into the story, through the characters. I hope readers will enjoy that. Well, the happy ending might be nice, too!

      Delete
  3. I'm intrigued. I wasn't expecting hints of comedy in your writing. Love the example. 'Sitting on the toilet.'
    I agree its frustrating when you're reading something and can't picture the character. It's great when live invades a story.
    H Greenis - The Natasha Saga

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One of the things I find though, is that often I don't want to accept the description of the character. I imagine them as someone I know. So if the author says they're blond, and I see brunette, I'm not going to see blond.

      Delete
    2. Hey, Heather: I felt comedy can have a place in suspense-thrillers. As people, our character is complex, so we owe it to our characters to have multi-dimensions. Then, as you say, life can invade the story. My wife quite enjoyed how warmly I wrote the older, vacationing couple from Minnesota. They made me smile with their mannerisms. Thank you for your comments.

      Delete
  4. Thanks to all for your warm and generous comments. I'll be making arrangements for Heather Greenis to receive a copy of Three Wrongs, to get her started on the series!

    ReplyDelete