Sometimes we writers overthink our work (and in that spirit, this will be a brief post). We try to create spectacular worlds and amazing magic systems and plots filled with surprises and twists. And all of that is great. When I read, I love narrative complexity, rich settings, and remarkable magic.
But I read for emotion. I read, as do so many, because I want to delve into the internal lives of compelling characters. Humans are natural voyeurs and eavesdroppers. We are curious about other people, sometimes to a disturbing degree. (See: Kardashian, Kim) One of the great allures of reading, I believe, is the chance not only to listen to and watch characters, but also to have access to their thoughts and emotions.
I bring this up because I have noticed in working with students and less experienced writers, a tendency to shy away from exploring the emotions of […]
Continue reading Quick-Tip Tuesday: Writing With Emotion
The other night, my wife and I were watching old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (we own the whole series on disk). We’re on season 5 right now, and we came to one of our favorite episodes: the first episode with Bajoran Starfleet Ensign Ro Laren (played by Michelle Forbes). Ro was an amazing character — and this is a terrific episode — because she was everything a Starfleet officer wasn’t supposed to be: rebellious and disdainful of authority, prickly and opinionated, and more devoted to her own people than to the principles on which Starfleet was founded. Adding her to the cast shook things up a bit, and freshened the series at a time when it might otherwise have started to grow stale.
As I watched, it occurred to me that other shows of which I’m a fan had done very similar things with their casts. […]
Continue reading Quick-Tip Tuesday: What We Can Learn From Ro Laren
I’ve just started teaching an online course with the Odyssey writing program, and it should surprise no one here that the course is on “Point of View: The Intersection of Character and Plot.” As most of you know, point of view is kind of an obsession for me. I think it lies at the heart of all storytelling. You can do a Magical Words search of “Coe, point of view,” and you’ll get enough hits to keep you reading for hours . . .
In talking about point of view, I also can’t help but talk about character and the process I use to develop the characters I use, primary and secondary, in my own work.
One of the things I like to do when coming up with a character’s history and/or life circumstances, is give that person a secret of some sort. Any secret at all will do. It […]
Continue reading Quick-Tip Tuesday: The Power of Secrets
This time of year is ripe for holiday cheer, and also for people who go ballistic about the way other people offer holiday greetings. Happy Christmas, for example, is what my mother-in-law always says. She’s from London. I don’t tell her “say Merry!” and she doesn’t tell me “in my house, say Happy!” We’re both cool with the other person’s traditions. (I’ve totally adopted the Christmas cracker, funny hat thing, though.)
Now, if I were to write a novel with a Christmas scene I’d consider this. How easy would it be to slip in “Happy Christmas” to show (not tell!) the audience that my character isn’t from America? Or at least isn’t from the Merry Christmas America we’re all used to.
As people are sprinting around gathering their foods and gifts, listen to them. Take in what the woman calls her frying pan (skillet, perhaps?), or […]
Continue reading Happy Christmas!!
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
“Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.”
“I’m a slow reader, but I usually get through seventy or eighty books a year, most fiction. I don’t read in order to study the craft; I read because I […]
Continue reading Read Like a Writer
Today’s Question: where does the inspiration come from for the characters that writers create?
Yourself Write what you know. That’s pretty common advice, and something that many writers do, even when it comes to creating characters. (Or at least the readers like to look for evidence of it.) Who do you know better than yourself? Basing a character, at least in part, on yourself gives you plenty of fodder for development.
Someone You Know How many writers do you think base characters, at least in part, on people they know? Probably a lot of them. Just be careful that you don’t copy them too closely, especially if they might read your work and recognize themselves! You sure wouldn’t want Great Aunt Tilly to recongize that sardine jello surprise everyone makes fun of at Thanksgiving dinner, right?
Someone You See Writers are often quiet creatures–observant, thoughtful, and curious–so with those qualities, […]
Continue reading Character Inspiration
Yep, it’s Thursday! I’m baaaaaack!
And yes — Dark Heir is out and doing well.
If our main characters are to blossom, then they have to have a function and the weapons to accomplish the goal you, the writer, sets for them. Function: Jane is necessary to stem the vamp war with the European Vampires, a war she knows nothing of when the series starts. Weapons: She has the desire, developing skill sets and the family she is building to fight evil. When she realizes that her friends and godchildren are potentially threatened, she also has the desire to fight.
So if look at characterization from the standpoint of strengths and weaknesses, we can easily take a character—any character—and show them developing by simply letting the plot points challenge the character’s weaknesses.
Last week we looked at Jane Yellowrock’s traits, so this week let’s look at them again, […]
Continue reading Character Development – Show Me – Jane and Beast — PART TWO