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The Key to Creating a Wholly Believable Character
Last week I talked about the natural action-reaction cycle that’s such an important issue in fiction writing. So many manuscripts I critique are missing key reactions from characters. This oversight—and I believe that’s what usually causes this problem—is similar to scenes lacking appropriate description of setting or characters.
Writers see their scenes in their heads, and often while attempting to get all the many details down and locked in, they fail to pay attention to these nuances and trimmings. Yes, it’s often easier to come back later and fill those in—bring in sensory elements and the touches of description that help bring a scene to life.
And writers can certainly add in those needed reactions as well. So long as they can spot what’s missing.
While a lack of description details can be easy to spot and subsequently provide, if a writer doesn’t really get the natural flow of action-reaction, he won’t know it’s missing. Or know how to insert it so it’s believable.
Put Yourself in Your Character’s Shoes
So much of writing great fiction lies in the ability for writers to put themselves in their characters’ shoes (or slippers or moccasins). I don’t think writers take enough time to sink into the roles of their characters. To mull over how it feels to be George or Sally or Fido.
I truly believe the best writers are the ones who have a gift of acting. And while you might not feel you are talented in that way, I do believe you can train yourself to be. If you’re not the type that likes to psychoanalyze yourself or others, this is going to be harder for you than for some other authors.
Don’t Get Stuck in Left-Brain Tendencies
I notice a lot of my editing clients struggle with this. These are the writers who tend to be left-brain analytical. They might work as CPAs and computer programmers (not to stereotype here or say people with these vocations can’t immerse themselves in character). But they’re the kind of thinker that sees plot at the crux of story, and they often have a hard time feeling what their characters feel. They approach their fictional characters logically and practically, writing out long descriptions of who they are, their background, their hobbies and interests, their goals.
Which is all well and good. But to get past the surface of plot and structure and get deep into story, it really requires getting deep into characters.
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