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RECENT ARTICLES:

Writing Style and Your Unique Voice 

The Importance of Your Copyright

On Character Creation

Can You Be Too Old to Write?

The Horror, the Horror

The Fantasy Fiction Formula

Free Writing Techniques

Writers Guide to Reading

The Science of Easy Writing

What's Next for You?

News Views & Clues to Writing Success

You Got The Power

The Culture of Positivity

How to be Your Own Mentor

Create Your Own World

Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Cure Writers Block - Forever

The Truth is Out There

Tempus Fugit

Stand Up and Be Counted

Write From Where You Started

That Competitive Edge

Inspiration Point

Change Your Mind

Writing at the Pit Face

Change the Way You Look at Things

Show Don't Tell

On Me

What Do You Want To Say?

Moments of Clarity

The Write Stuff

Tame Your Creativity

Entitlement

Writing Down The Bones

Give Away Your Fiction

Secret Grammar Rules

Motivation and Writing

What to Do With Inspiration

How to Write an Internet Article - Fast

Dust in the Wind

Writing Suspense Fiction

How to Make a Book Trailer

Mark Twain Would Have Loved The Net

Love Your Writing

How to Write a Song

The Hidden Story Formula

Ideas and Inspiration

The Writing is on the Wall

When You Don't Feel Like Writing

How to Believe in Yourself

The 4 Phases of Wisdom

Why Fiction Matters

11 reasons to be a writer

 

"Rob Parnell is the World's Foremost Writing Guru" - Writers Digest Best Writers' Site - Critters #1 Best Writers' Info Site. Rob is listed in Who's Who

News, Views & Clues... to Writing Success

 

Dear Fellow Writer,

Welcome to this week's newsletter.

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THIS WEEK'S ARTICLE:

Give Your Characters Attitude

Rob Parnell

The other day, a writer friend of mine told me her publisher recommended she read a certain book to get the flavor of what they liked to publish.

Eager to know, my author friend rushed to find the book and devour it... only to feel slightly disappointed - and confused.

She wondered what it was about this book the publisher liked. 

The story wasn't great. 

The writing was average. 

Some of the pacing seemed awkward. 

Then it hit her. 

It was the ATTITUDE of the protagonist that gave the book its appeal. 

The hero was feisty, quick to anger, even spiteful and yet somehow lovable.

It's no secret that I believe the key to good story telling is 'character'. 

It should come before everything else - before plotting, before story, even before putting pen to paper. 

If your characters aren't real to you, their stories will never work.

Characters should live in the present - even when you're telling stories in the past tense.

It's one of my theories that ever since Mark Twain, American fictional characters have been largely 'living' without consequence - because that reflects the kind of people we aspire to be: active, driven and focused on the moment, living in the present. 

It makes following their stories more compelling.

Let's do some exploring, shall we?

Think of some classic fictional characters. 

What's the first thing that comes to mind? 

Their physical appearance? Rarely. 

It's usually their demeanor, isn't it? 

Their unique way of interacting with the world - yes, their attitude towards what they do.

James Paterson's Alex Cross is a great character because he's all heart. He loves his family and truly values friendship - and takes his psychopath's activities very personally!

Patricia Cornwall's Kaye Scarpetta doesn't respond well to being patronized or underestimated. She's also way too protective of her niece - for what purpose other than busybodying is not made clear!

Notice too that Scarpetta gets much more critical of her partner's bad habits as the series progresses (even though her own morals get increasingly looser.)

The Da Vinci Code's Robert Langham is intrigued by mystery and secret symbols. Interestingly, despite being a simple college professor he seems to possess almost James Bond like powers of endurance. 

In Angels and Demons, for instance, he actually falls out of a plane without a parachute over Rome... and survives with barely a scratch! (They left that bit out of the movie!)

I think Harry Potter's appeal has much to do his ordinariness. He never believes he's capable of what he has to face. Everybody and his dog knows he's supposedly destined for greatness but he doesn't ever seem quite ready for it.

Bella in Twilight knows only her day to day existence. She's so self obsessed it's easy to see why she appeals so completely to teenage girls.

WRR

Ana Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey is completely stuck in the moment - to me, a victim of the present, living essentially without consequence - which I'm sure is a large part of her appeal.

The next time you're inventing (major and minor) characters, don't just imagine their physical attributes, try to give them depth by wondering what they would be passionate about or, conversely, have little interest in. What would annoy them - or thrill them?

Give them short term agendas, things they are committed to achieving or seeing come to pass. But don't make them too analytical in the European sense - as this may hamper their potential for irrational - that is, compelling - actions.

And remember, never impose a story on a character. The best stories come out of the main character's conflicting agendas.

For example, it's not enough to have some anonymous killer trailed by any old ordinary detective. 

The killer must be fully realized - impulsive, obsessed - and there must be very good reasons (if only in his own mind) why he does what he does. 

Similarly, for any good fiction, the detective should be motivated by much more than just 'doing his job' to make a story like this compelling.

Once we know the killer hates women and perhaps himself, and that the detective is terrified of losing his wife to him, then we begin to care about the outcome.

I think one of the reasons Hollywood movies work so well is that the big stars come with a ready made attitude. Or at least one we associate with the actor, whether it's real or not.

We all know what to expect from actors like Brad Pitt, Al Pacino and Scarlett Johannson. No matter what characters they play, we sense their attitudes, their strength and depth, even though we know they're only acting!

So, the message is that during character development, try to imagine being inside the heads of your characters. 

Imagine what it feels like to be your character - moment by moment - the way real people are. We often don't analyze our own motivations or even understand them.

We just act.

As should our characters.

Don't just give them attributes, histories and agendas, go the extra mile and give 'em attitude!

For my famous masterclass on Character Creation, click here.

Keep writing!

 rob at home

Rob Parnell
The Easy Way to Write

THIS WEEK'S WRITER'S QUOTE:

"Sit down, and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his  own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it."
Colette

Previous Newsletter includes:
Article: "Character Creation"

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