How to write good fiction: Characters!

This humorous video by RedLetterMedia offers some of the basics of character development.  It talks of it from a film-making prospective, but this applies in writing fiction as well.

So how well developed are your characters?  Try this exercise on for size.

1.  Do you have a protagonist?  Does your story include a character arc?  In other words, does your character want something that is a struggle to obtain?  Does your climax involve the character going through a personal transformative change that pertains to their original struggle?

2.  Describe your characters WITHOUT saying what they look like, what clothing they wear, what their profession or role in your book is.   How strong would you say your characters are developed in your mind?

Don’t have a lot to work with?  I’ll address that in a later post.  But for now I’ll emphasis the one point about writing that the video doesn’t cover since it is about movie making. “Show” us who your characters are when you write.  Do not “tell” us.  “Showing” in terms of character development means all those details you just stated about your character must be inferred in your writing.

In other words, if you take a break from the story tell us what you’re character is like or even what that character’s history is, you’re telling.  You’re not showing the reader.

If you’re not sure how to convey your character’s traits in your work, take a book you love and do the same exercise (step number 2) for the characters of that book.  Then take a highlighter, reread whatever section of the book you’d like and highlight anything that you identify gave you that impression of such traits.


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