Paperback, 182 pages
Published March 15th 1999 by Writer’s Digest Books (first published 1988)
Original Title Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing)
Series Elements of Fiction Writing
Vivid and memorable characters aren’t born: they have to be made.
This book is a set of tools: literary crowbars, chisels, mallets, pliers and tongs. Use them to pry, chip, yank and sift good characters out of the place where they live in your memory, your imagination and your soul.
Award-winning author Orson Scott Card explains in depth the techniques of inventing, developing and presenting characters, plus handling viewpoint in novels and short stories. With specific examples, he spells out your narrative options–the choices you’ll make in creating fictional people so “real” that readers will feel they know them like members of their own families.
You’ll learn how to:
draw the characters from a variety of sources, including a story’s basic idea, real life–even a character’s social circumstances
make characters show who they are by the things they do and say, and by their individual “style”
develop characters readers will love–or love to hate
distinguish among major characters, minor characters and walk-ons, and develop each one appropriately
choose the most effective viewpoint to reveal the characters and move the storytelling
decide how deeply you should explore your characters’ thoughts, emotions and attitudes
This book was written by Orson Scott Card in 1988, and published by Writer’s Digest Books, books that I’ve often picked up as resource materials.
This book is divided into three main parts: Inventing Characters, Constructing Characters, and, Performing Characters.
Part One: Inventing Characters, covers what a character is and what makes a good fiction character. To answer these questions, you’ll read about questions readers often ask, how important it is being the first audience for your story and what it means, how to interrogate your character and why this is important in developing your character, and, from character to story, from story to character and how they relate.
From there you’ll read about where characters come from, how life can help create your characters, locating ideas for your story, and more. Then, you’ll discover how important keeping a notebook is and why, how lists help flesh out your character’s deep, dark secrets.
Part Two: Constructing Characters, focuses on the kind of story you are telling including information on: the ‘Mice” quotient, milieu and idea concept, more on your character and so much more. You’ll see the author’s viewpoints regarding walk-ons and placeholders, secondary characters and their importance, and comparison to the major characters.
Next, you learn how to raise the emotional stakes of your story and how: suffering, sacrifice, jeopardy, sexual tensions, signs and portents affect your story.
You’ll move on to what you should feel about the character, what first impressions should be, about those characters you love and those you hate, and why. You learn the difference between the hero and the common man and when in comics, your characters should hold a controlled belief with your readers.
The serious character topic will be approached, and how to make readers believe in them through the use of the elaboration of motive, attitude, a remembered past, or implied past and how justification affects the seriousness of the character.
You’ll learn about transformations, or, why people change and what justifies those changes.
Part Three: Performing Characters, covers voices, person and tense. Presentation vs. representation is discussed followed by dramatic vs. narrative. First-person narratives are broken down, discussing which person is first, why no fourth wall, and how to make up your mind.
This section finishes up with a brief discussion on population explosions and an index.
Lots of helpful information at your fingertips. I give this book: