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Writing Fiction: Bring Your Characters To Life With Roz Morris
Plot will carry you through a book as a reader, but the characters are usually what sticks with you after the book is finished. But how do you ensure your characters are memorable enough? Roz Morris discusses aspects of improving character in this interview about her new book on bringing characters to life
In today's interview, I talk to Roz Morris, author of Nail Your Novel: Bring characters to life . Roz is the author of over a dozen novels as a ghostwriter and has also written 'Memories of a Future Life' under her own name. She has a series of books for writers, the first one is 'Nail Your Novel' and now 'Bring characters to life' which we're talking about today. You can also listen to the audio above or on iTunes here. You can also find the back list of podcast shows here. There's a video version of the interview on YouTube here.
Why are characters so important anyway? A plot is only as interesting as who the is happening TO. It will only come alive when you're in someone else shoes. Character binds us to a story -- from the biggest, post-apocalyptic world to a personal, intimate drama. You can't just have people do stuff without building a connection with the character and fathoming their humanity. In non-fiction, and even in business books, people use stories of real people/characters rather than just elucidating facts. You can't go wrong in focusing on people and life.
What are the top 3 things people get wrong about protagonists? Novice writers often create a saintly paragon for a protagonist. But we connect with humanity in all its variation so you can have more complex characters with some unlikeable characteristics. By putting your character in an extreme situation, you can find ways to bring out the weak spots in your nicest characters. Plug the reader into the character's internal life, as well as showing their behavior and dialogue. Have some scenes that allow this to develop. Don't leave your mysterious characters empty, if you want them to be intriguing. You have to show something. Make the reader wonder if there is more there by creating conundrums. Creating characters from within yourself and research Over time, as a writer, you understand yourself more and you can write more into your characters. Knowing yourself is critical but from that place, you can imagine many situations where you are many different people. We all present different faces to the world. Perhaps there is a hierarchy of character over our writing life. We develop into more different characters over time and move away from autobiographical characters. We talk about research for characters e.g. reading blogs of mothers whose children have died. Roz also mentions reading a lot of memoirs. Anything to give you an insight into how people live and survive after particular situations. On antagonists, evil characters and villains A memorable antagonist needs to be as well developed as your protagonist. They have to be a good match and have the staying power to make it all the way through the book. An antagonist opposes the hero's desire, it doesn't mean they are a villain. But all villains are antagonists. We talk about some categories of villains that interest people because it's not what they see in real life. Give your antagonist the same backup as your protagonist e.g. friends, colleagues, family. They are not in isolation. They are also highly motivated. Make it personal to the villain and humanize them so the reader can understand why they are this way. We discuss how fun it is to write a villain, perhaps because it is more based on your imagination. On dialogue You do not write dialogue in normal life, so it is a specific skill you have to learn when you write fiction. We do have to make characters sound different but that doesn't mean an accent. It is worldview, education, language, use of synonyms as well as humor and their physical/non-verbal actions around the discussion. Remember to keep the physical descriptions at the same time -- have visual details, other characters doing things or have other noises that ground the scene in reality, rather than a dialogue in a vacuum. The character's relationships with each other will also change according to roles and status e.g. Prime Minister talking to a King vs Prime Minister talking to a servant, or the King to his daughter. Change in status can be very interesting. Always read your dialogue out loud! You will find out so much from doing that. http://www.TheCreativePenn.com
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