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Friday, April 26, 2013

Legendary and Contemporary Thoughts on Writing and Characterization

Fellow author Terry Odell's blog recently recounted hearing Stephen Coonts quoting Mark Twain on Fenimore Cooper: The rules he spoke of hold true today.
 
"The rules governing literary art require that the author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and in their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones."

How do we do that? As authors, we know that scenes are units of conflict lived through by character and reader. Characters must be three dimensional, living, breathing beings. As authors we must know the whole person before we place them into the story. We use experience, observation of others, inspiration and imagination to create them. We have to know what drives them and how they will react to different problems. We set imaginary goals for them. Goals help characters become motivated and moves your story along. Characters face adversity in a scene and in a sequel they decide what to do with it.

At a recent Book Talk I told about a lithograph of a woman tending a spinning frame in a cotton mill which metamorposed into my grandmother. She inspired a beloved continuing character in my Maine shore Chronicles series, created through inspiration and imagination.  My readers loved Tante Margaret and urged me to make her a main character with a story of her own.

As authors and readers we know  that characters leave lasting impressions. Nora Ephron captures the feeling  in her book: I Feel Bad About My Neck:And Other Thouhts About Being A Woman.
 
 Reading is one of the main things I do. Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel I've accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.”
Nora Ephron,
 
There is something called the rapture of the deep, and it refers to what happens when a deep-sea diver spends too much time at the bottom of the ocean and can't tell which way is up. When he surfaces, he's liable to have a condition called the bends, where the body can't adapt to the oxygen levels in the atmosphere. All of this happens to me when I surface from a great book.”
Nora Ephron, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman
WOW! May we seek the rapture of the deep with our reading. . . . Creating good characters may help!

2 comments:

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Mary,

Creating characters that readers connect with offers the greatest satisfaction. But first comes the connection the author must make with the characters. They must become real to us. We must be able to visualize them, to hear the sound of their voices, to understand how they think and why.

Mary F. Schoenecker said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You described very well what I meant when I said we must know the "whole person" before we place them in the story.