Thursday, October 30, 2008

Characters - Believability

Wow, I can't believe another week has passed! I also can't believe that it's almost November! But, it's good news that it's November. Do you know what November is? It is National Novel Writing Month, or so I'm told.


Before I get on to today's lesson, I am going to do a little survey in honor of National Novel Writing Month. "Ugh! Surveys! I hate those!" I can hear you all saying that, but this one will be fun and you get a prize just for participating! "What? A prize? Okay, tell me more." Is that what I'm hearing now? Anyone who participates, and all questions must be answered, gets to read a short synopsis of my next novel before it's out! In the Name of Revenge is in the hands of my agent, looking for a home. I'm willing to give all participants a leg-up on what's to come. You will be among the first to read what it's all about!


Now that I have your attention, I'm going to get on with the survey:


Q1. Are you published?


Q2. If the answer to Q1 is no, are you working on a novel? If not, do you have any desire to write?


Q3. If the answer to Q1 is yes, what genre do you write in and what is the name of your novel?


Q4. If you have a published novel or if you are working on one, what inspired you to write it?


Q5. If you are published, are you POD, self-published or with a traditional publisher?


Q6. If you are published, did you go directly through a publisher or did you use an agent?


Q7. Give me your thoughts on a writing process. It can be about anything to do with one or more lessons I've already given in my blog, including the one included in this blog.However, your answer to this question can not be substituted for your blog comments. I still want to see your comments! You can click on the Archives to see the lessons to refresh your memory or read those you haven't yet.



Characters - Believability

•When writing, you can tell your reader that a character is irritable and mean, but if you do not show why that is so, the reader will not just accept it as true and will actually feel put off because he or she feels cheated; the reader has not been shown why the character is the way he or she is. Author Rick DeMarinis in The Art & Craft of the Short Story says, “…the main objective of dialogue are to reveal character, to bring relationships into sharp focus, and to advance the story.” (159-160).¹


•DeMarinis points out, “Scenes…put the characters on stage where we can see them. We hear them talk, watch them move, experience their milieu. When the characters are on stage, they reveal themselves in ways a narrator cannot.” (159).² These characters then become believable.


1,2 DeMarinis, Rick. The Art & Craft of the Short Story. Ohio: Story Press, 2000.


Okay, give me some believable characters. I'm waiting to see what you can all do!

By the way, are you anticipating the guest blogger that will be coming up? Don't forget to join me in welcoming a literary agent. No, I'm not revealing his or her name yet. You'll have to wait!


Starr Reina

16 comments:

Starr Reina said...

Everyone,

I meant to mention that for all survey answers, please email me off-blog at sreina@queenwriter.com. All answers will be reviewed by me and I will reply to your email. If you qualify, I will then have your email in order to send you the prize!

Starr

Anonymous said...

Starr,

The idea of showing a characters personality is crucial to telling a story. For example, if you have a wife beater and he appears to be a wonderful, hard-working business man and in the middle he begins beating his wife with no other prior signs, he is not believeable. His anger and mental instability need to be shown prior to the beatings.

On to the questionairre:

Q1. Are you published?

Yes, I have three books out and my murder trilogy is in my agent's hands.

Q2. If the answer to Q1 is no, are you working on a novel? If not, do you have any desire to write?

Q3. If the answer to Q1 is yes, what genre do you write in and what is the name of your novel?

I've written in several genres, however, lately mysteries have become my favorite. The published books are called, "My Soul has Spoken" genre poetry, "Where do I Begin?" genre self-help, "Husbandry 101" genre self-help. My agent also has three others besides my mystery triology. "Love's Blind Eye" genre drama, "Remember Me" genre drama and "The Genie and the Spirit" genre children's books. The trilogy is my "Menacing Triology" titled, "Morning Menace", "Evening Menace" and "Afternoon Menace".

Q4. If you have a published novel or if you are working on one, what inspired you to write it?

My poetry comes from my life and life experiences. My first self-help came from my lifetime of lack of self-respect and my second self-help book is for men. It came from myself and my friends who felt men needed a handbook on how to be a good husband.

Q5. If you are published, are you POD, self-published or with a traditional publisher?

I was with both a POD and a traditional publisher.

Q6. If you are published, did you go directly through a publisher or did you use an agent?

My first three I went directly through a publsiher, however, now I have an agent and everything I do goes through him.

Q7. Give me your thoughts on a writing process. It can be about anything to do with one or more lessons I've already given in my blog, including the one included in this blog.However, your answer to this question can not be substituted for your blog comments. I still want to see your comments! You can click on the Archives to see the lessons to refresh your memory or read those you haven't yet.

I've read your entire blog, I check it out every week and I love it. My favorite lesson was where you first spoke about character believeability. Your example was perfect for a first-time writer.

Marilyn said...

Another way to make the characters believable is to climb inside them. This is especially helpful for remaining in the head of the POV character. That way you can see, feel, touch, hear, taste and smell what they are--and experience what they experience.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

CAV LASTER said...

Example of character:

Serial Killer.

Usually a serial killer can appear normal to others. But! There are signs of ticks they show, but others don’t catch on. Like when on the edge, they can clench their jaws or squeeze their grip on something because they’re irritated and wish they could eliminate that person then and there. Some of them self inflict injuries on them. As writers we need to portray what led this person to become one. Some were abuse. Others just enjoyed watching their victims die and that gives them some sort of power. Many of them start off by killing animals when they were a young age. For instance, my husband is an elementary teacher. And there was a male student who was eight years old, who proved to have a messed up mind, which in the future could lead to a serial killer. The kid jumped over the school’s large fence to get to a cat that did absolutely nothing to him. He took a brick and slammed it various times to the cat’s skull. He stood there watching it die with a big smug on his face. This is an example of how we can project our serial killer character having this instinct to kill. This detailed descriptions is what makes our serial killer character more believable. Like Marilyn mentioned, we need to crawl into our characters, by doing some research and making a believable back-story for them. Before writing, we need to act that part, pretend we are that character in the flesh and write a convincing tale for our characters.

Starr Reina said...

Anonymous,

Thank you for your comments. Yes, you are right in saying that a man's "...anger and mental instability need to be shown prior to the beatings." They can be subtle, but should exist to establish the viciousness, so to speak, of the character.

As to your answers to the survey, I am unable to award you the prize as the rules state all questions must be answered, even with a n/a. You omitted your response to Q2. I'm sorry.

Starr


Marilyn,

Thank you for your comments! Yes! This is exactly what should happen. I couldn't have said it better myself. Thank you for sharing.

Starr


Cav,

Wonderful! I agree with, "This detailed descriptions is what makes our serial killer character more believable." Yes, backstory is very important. We must remember, however, that when writing short stories, there is less of an opportunity to create the backstory and much must be left to the imagination of the reader; not all, but quite a bit.

Starr

DJ said...

Hi, Starr

Since my focus is on screenwriting, I'm going to bypass the survey - most of the questions don't apply to me.

I have a homeless man nicknamed Harpo in a script of mine called Harpo's Bike. I portrayed the character as a resourceful hermit who survives in New Orleans by begging for money while dressed like... Harpo Marx.

The character is resourceful, but haunted by something that happened to him in the Gulf War - a betrayal that has left him emotionally vulnerable as well as mute due to a knife to the throat. And he finds himself being followed by the second character of the story, a young man who is trying to understand the connection between Harpo and his deceased veteran father. There was a rift between the father and the young man who has become an established commercial artist.

I placed the characters in New Orleans because it's a natural setting for artists and street performers to make a living. So having a character who "blends in" with the crowd even though he stands out by looking like Harpo Marx became believable in this story.

Starr Reina said...

DJ,

Thank you for your comments. Your screenplay Harpo's Bike sounds very good.

Your comment of, "I placed the characters in New Orleans because it's a natural setting for artists and street performers to make a living. So having a character who "blends in" with the crowd even though he stands out by looking like Harpo Marx became believable in this story" is dead on. New Orleans is a good setting for this and it appears you used it well.

Starr

CAV LASTER said...

Hi DJ,

Wow, your character sounds interesting. Wishing you success in your screen writing endeavors work.

Starr Reina said...

Cav,

Thank you for posting back to DJ.

All,

Interaction among each other is also very welcome on this blog. All comments do not necessarily have to be addressed to me. Go ahead, everyone; talk to each other!

Starr

David said...

I have a problem with "showing", which is what this is all about. I agree, especially with Marilyn's comments. Getting inside them and letting that person become visible to the reader is what makes them real. In my WIP I have a woman talking to a cop about a rape. Initially I just told the readers how she felt, did the clenched fist thing, or teary eye, but with some direction from a collegue she now does all of that, switches from anger to sorrow, and the whole time you can watch this change in her thought process as she shreds a paper napkin at the restaurant they're in. It works quite well. I hope the rest of the book is as convincing.

David

Starr Reina said...

David,

I'm glad to know that you have progressed to SHOW a character's feelings within in a setting instead of just TELLING the reader. Nice job!

Starr

CAV LASTER said...

That's great David,

You learned from your mistake and fixed it. We all have things to better in our writing. I personally dealt with the same thing, and I have learned a lot with my fellow writers. Keep up the good work!

Suspense said...

I love this site! I'm linking it up to Suspense Magazine. Starr is a professional in every sense of the word and has a wonderful site!!

Starr Reina said...

Suspense,

Thank you for your comment and for linking me up to Suspense Magazine's site. That is very nice of you to do.

Enjoy the blogs.

Starr

Starr Reina said...

Cav,

Thanks for your post to David. It is good when we all learn from our mistakes, because we all make them.

Starr

Anonymous said...

This scene is to show the state of a character's marriage.

Cheers,

Jan M.

Her cell phone vibrated in her hip pocket.
“Serena.” Her husband’s voice was business-like, the tone he reserved for his least valuable clients. She hadn't had a lovey-dovey phone call with him since their university romance. It was all nuts and bolts now.
“I won’t be home for supper. New proposal. Meetings are going on until we finish. We’re ordering in Thai.”
Yummy. Thai. Must be nice. She rolled her eyes for the four walls.
"Thai Sa-On ?"
"Yes."
She wondered if she could bring her home a container of Tom Yam soup for a bedtime snack. But he would begrudgingly agree and then consider her a pest. She wondered if he was secretly dating someone at work. The new single accountant that just jetted in from Toronto, perhaps? She tried to muster up a little jealousy. Did she really care? Maybe ignorance really was bliss, a thought she’d never dared embrace until now.
“Really. When will you be home, Nick?”
“Ten or eleven. Deadline is tomorrow. Don't wait up for me.”
They signed off curtly. Damn, she even snapped off a French tip, snapping the phone shut. She would have to book with the manicurist. She tossed the phone on the couch, and reached for her daytimer with its to-do list.

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