One of our Author Contributors here at A Pen for Your Thoughts, Anne Greene, has a great writing tip that involves the character you decide to write about, and why this is so important to the making of a good story.
Join me, and let's see what Anne has to say.
BECOME YOUR CHARACTER
By Anne Greene
An actor climbs inside the character he portrays to make that character real. In the same way a writer must get inside the character’s head and become that character in order to make him real. A writer must see the created world through the character’s eyes. Some people call this deep point of view. I prefer to call this becoming the character.
To become a written character is more difficult than it sounds. We’re a generation of movie goers. We watch characters doing things on the big screen. We are outside their bodies. Yet we don’t have to be told what their actions mean, the characters show us. But, we are not inside their heads. And that is exactly how many writers portray their characters. From the outside.
But to make a written character real, the writer must show his motivations, emotions, thoughts, decisions, and how he experiences the created world around him. So, how does a good writer accomplish this? Here are a few suggestions.
Basic one: never use the words saw, felt, smelled, heard, thought, said, etc. For instance, rather than saying she smelled smoke, write the smell. Acrid wood smoke coming from the direction of the house, raised the hair on the nape of her neck. Rather than she felt, write what she felt. Chills spidered down her spin. Rather than saying she heard, write the sound coming to her ears. Over the muted roar of traffic, the clear, sweet tone of bells ringing brought a smile to her face. And so on—you get the idea. And, it’s redundant to write the emotion after you have gotten inside the character’s head to experience it.
I personally find getting inside the character rewarding. But I’m still not proficient. Becoming a character isn’t easy. But, once your inside your character you won’t make the mistake of author intrusion (dumping information the author wants the reader to know) because you’re character would never do that. Nor will you be adding unnecessary tags that jerk the reader out of the character’s head. Tags like she said, she thought, etc. that remind the reader they are not actually experiencing the story.
Basic two: Becoming the character adds emotion at the same time the action occurs. Weave in the sights, sounds, scents, fears, thoughts from inside the character and the reader experiences the same reactions as the character. And, of course, when the writer is the character, she will seldom describe her physical looks or mention her own name. A character named Amy would never say-Amy twirled a strand of her honey-blonde hair around her pink-tipped nail. She would more likely say-tapping one finger in a staccato rhythm against the battered desk, she pulled at a strand of her hair.
Basic three: Being inside the character cuts down on unnecessary adverbs. Instead of saying, she shouted angrily, get inside the character. She slapped his lean cheek. “I meant what I said.” Let the character’s body language take the place of adverbs.
So my advice to writers is: BECOME THE CHARACTER.
Copyright 2012 Anne Green
A Texas Christmas Mystery