Posts Tagged ‘characters’

New year, old story

dec-2016It’s a new year, but I want to pass along some ideas from the tail end of the old year. ECWG member Tom Zumwalt writes about writing on his blog, and his 13 December 2016 post contains some wonderful observations.

The image of plot as a river really resonates – it may be slow or fast, murky or clear, winding or direct, filled with obstacles, branches, pirates, or crocodiles. It carries the characters (and ideally the reader) to a place they weren’t before, and nothing is exactly the same when they arrive as it was when they departed. This can be a terrific tool for mapping out your plot or for assessing what you’ve already written: do we get lost in that tributary? Are there too many rapids, or not enough? Does the whole thing move along so slowly that everyone abandons ship and drowns out of boredom?

But the river – the plot – is simply a vehicle for the characters. Without them, we never embark on the journey. They are the only reason we care about the river. With the right characters, even the most placid river will not be boring, because they will do stupid or brave or terrifying or outrageous things on the way, and we will be riveted.

So heed Tom’s call: create characters we cannot look away from and send them down the river.


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Characters appear in writing of all kinds, even non-fiction, and often the characters in a piece of writing are what most attracts or repels readers. There are almost as many ways of creating characters as there are writers, but every writer can learn something from what other writers do.

Oliver at Literature and Libation has put together a blog post on character formation that is entertaining, informative, and brilliantly illustrated. Even if you glean nothing to use in your own writing practice, reading this post counts as time spent thinking about writing. (It’s likely to improve your blood pressure as well.)

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