Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Characters we CARE ABOUT


In response to Julie Musil's Building Characters post. Read it and come back here or read it there. I really don't care which you do, satisfy yourself because I know you will anyway -- that's what knuckers do.



All right, missy (Julie), you just touched on something that's been nagging at me these past few months, and in fact has nagged me for many months across many years across many many stories for all the time I've been a-writing.

Here's the nag: ALL characters are important.

Every. Last. One.

If you ever dismiss a character as unimportant, that is you as the writer's fault for not being more sympa/empathetic.

This point was hammered home to me recently when I read Vonnegut's Breakfast for Champions.

I always sensed that everyone was equally important, but V pointed this out in B&W and even drew a human anus to make his point.

That's true. Read the book if you don't believe me.

Your #7 and #9 are the two that got me -- extraneous and non-care-abouts.

There is no such thing as non-characters in your story, anymore than there is such a thing in real life.

We all have agendas. We are all important. We are all meaningful, and if you forget that point you'll alienate your reader who just happens to be a cocktail waitress at a dive bar that you as a high-pedestal author do not think is important.

You see the point, yes? You see the left hook in that comment?

Give your characters respect. Give them your love. You are their God and Creator and Savior.

If they pop up, even tangentially, they are your creation and deserve your respect and affection.

Or murder them. Someone else said that, too, murder your darlings.

But they're your darlings. Nothing unimportant about them, so lay them on the slab and bleed them, but cry about it when you do.

- Eric

ps: I love Julie's site. If you're not on there, go there, join, and make her your friend. Here is the link: http://juliemusil.blogspot.com

7 comments:

Julie Musil said...

Hey Eric! I'll put on my Noah Lukeman hat for a moment and say that I think the point he was making is that if we've written a first draft with characters who aren't crucial to the story, then we shouldn't waste the reader's time by having them invest any emotion into those characters. But if they add something to the story, then they do belong in the story. Right?

And the part about caring for our characters....we the writers DO care about them, but it's our job to transfer that to the page. I don't always succeed in this area, which is one reason why I'm obsessively studying character.

Whew. I need a nap :D

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I'm like you, Eric. Each character must mean something to the reader. Each of my antagonists have facets that are relatable to the reader.

Driven, lonely, lost in their ambition -- whatever, they are three dimensional. And I make them only a shade different than my protangonists. But it's that difference that means the world -- sometimes literally in my fantasies!

Another thought=provoking post, Roland

Milo James Fowler said...

This reminds me of your comment on my "king" post: that Mr. King loves all of his characters, and they're what make his books so compelling. We should strive to follow in his footsteps -- at least in that regard. And maybe on the whole adverbs thing too.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

And it helps to remember this in real life. We all come with a lifetime of dreams and experiences. If we all have a background and purpose, then so should all characters.

Raquel Byrnes said...

Instigator. :)

catwoods said...

Hmmm, I agree completely. Every character must have a purpose, a background, a perspective and a life of their own. Whether we see that on paper or not, we must FEEL that it is so.

Characterization is hard for me. My rough drafts often have flat characters that I must then perform CPR on to breathe life into them. It's tough sometimes, but to do otherwise is to shortchange the story, the characters and my potential readers.

Great reminder.

Andrew Rosenberg said...

I like all my characters. I pretty much agree, they're all important, and they all deserve a fate better than being red-shirted cannon fodder.