Characters

November 15, 2009

I was planning on running the rest of the series on the important aspects of writing, but unfortunatly, with all the school stuff I’ve had to do, I haven’t had time to write the posts. Therefore, this will most likely be my last post until the end of November. But anyway, on with the post…

According to Google, a character is simply a “fictional character: an imaginary person represented in a work of fiction”. However, I would expand that definition to include any being or thing with human qualities.
Characters are important aspects in novels, because they’re what readers have to love. If the readers love your characters, they will read your book. To make readers love your characters, the characters must be believable.

When creating believable characters, the first thing you must do is consider what story you’re writing, and the purpose of your character. The character must be able to do what is required of them. They should be physically and mentally able to complete the task. However, do not make them perfect. Doing this will take away from the believability of the character. After all, no one is perfect. Everyone has flaws, and so must your characters. Having flaws can help with the plot – it can provide tension, which makes a better story.

You should get to know your characters. One way to do this is by have a character outline. There are heaps out there, but the one I use (and am very happy with) comes from here. Fill out all the details as well as you can (see an example here), and you’ll come to know your characters really well with time.

I’ve written a few blog posts about characters throughout the year. You can read a post I did a while ago about Mary Sues, the perfect character. If you specifically want to know about antagonists, check out Making Bad Guys Bad part one and part two. Another post I’ve done is on Outsiders, the character your reader can relate to.

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Plot

November 3, 2009

In all books, there are several essential aspects which make the story. Those aspects are plot, characters, dialogue, style and setting. Over the course of November, I will be addressing those five aspects. Today, I will start with PLOT.

According to Aristotle, plot is the most important element of storytelling, and I have to agree. Without a plot, a story is nothing more than just a series of words set out to describe a series of events. Without a plot, there is no problem. No direction. No story.
As writers, we need to provide a plot, a problem, something to entertain the reader. A farmer checking on his farm is not a problem. However, a farmer checking on his farm, and finding some of his livestock missing, is.

A plot has four main stages, which together can form a pyramid or bell, depending on the image you look at.

Exposition/Beginning: The beginning of the plot, often sets up characters and setting. They are probably the most important part of the plot, as they have to, to be effective, do a number of things. Among a number of things, they should open with a character, they should open with action, and they should set the tone of the story. KM Weiland goes through this much better at her blog. Also, the Beginning is the first part the reader reads. The beginning is where the reader decides whether you’re a good writer… or a bad one.

Conflict/the Problem: This stage is essential to your work. The problem should be introduced. No conflict = no story. The tension should begin rising. There are several types of conflict:
Human v. Human – Protagonist v. the antagonist.
Human v. Society –  Protagonist tries to change the world. The protagonist is against the rest of the world.
Human v. Supernatural – The protagonist against a supernatural force/being. Think Dracula.
Human v. Technology: Protagonist is against a machine. I, Robot is a good example.

Climax: This is the part, right towards the end, where the action reaches it’s highest point. The climax is also the moment of highest tension and danger. The antagonist should be defeated by the victorious protagonist.

Denouement/Resolution/End: The end of the plot, the problem is solved and the goal is achieved. All loose ends should be resolved, unless deliberately left loose, perhaps for a sequel. Readers can become very frustrated if you leave loose ends. They feel cheated. They feel angry. They might not pick up your next novel. We don’t want that.

It’s important to have all those stages in your work for it to be complete. Have a good, exciting plot, and you’re on your way to writing the next best-seller.
Next time, I’ll look at creating realistic CHARACTERS.