Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge: C is for...


For my entries in the 2012 A to Z Challenge, I will be focusing on writing elements that I find important and that I want to incorporate into my work.

Today, the topic is CHARACTERIZATION

I think all good fiction is character-driven rather than plot-driven.  I love a strong plot with twists and turns and epic stakes and a surprise at the end.  But if I don't care about the characters, then the story leaves me empty and uninvolved -- it's like watching a play filled with a cast of manikins.

So I want my writing to be primarily about characters, and I want them to be compelling and multi-leveled, full of quirks and interesting conflicts.  I want my heroes to have flaws and I want my villains to have redeeming qualities.  

I also want my supporting characters to be real and multifaceted in their own right.  I'm not going to spend a great deal of time fleshing them out, but even characters who appear only briefly should be engaging.

One of my main wishes for my writing is for my readers to bond with my characters; to care about them; to feel connected and fully involved with them as the story unfolds.  If that connection is made, than I know my story was successful at its most important level.

Characterization is the key component of effective story-telling.

Thanks for visiting -- see you the rest of this month for more alphabetical fun!

Don't forget to visit HERE to see all the bloggers taking part in this A-to-Z challenge, and try to drop in on as many of them as you can!


Nikki said...

Thank you for your nice comment on my blog :)

I totally agree with you here, characters are really important to me. If I can't connect to one of the main characters and see a little of myself in them, I have a hard time reading the story or caring about what happens. The books where you feel like you can relate to the characters are the ones I cannot put down and stay with me long after I have read them.

This was a great post! I'm looking forward to tomorrow's :)

Nikki – inspire nordic

Stephanie Lorée said...

Hey Chris! Great posts so far for the A to Z Challenge. I definitely agree that characterization is important, though I often find the biggest error writers make is in the plot department. So, I think you need a good balance of plot and interesting characters. Unless, of course, you're writing literary fiction. Then you don't really need plot at all.


Simon Kewin said...

Great post: you sum up the process of creating interesting characters very nicely.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Strong characters I can either empathize with or feel strongly about, whether good or bad, matters a lot to me, too, but most agents are hung up on, "What HAPPENS to them? What do they WANT, and what's preventing them from getting it?" And in reading a bazillion books, it seems that in many cases, excellent writing takes a back seat to the story. Publishers seem to be able to forgive almost anything as long as the story is compelling.

.jessica. said...

Ditto that. With my last project I paid attention to characterization, but not as much as I should have - I was much more focused on plot and backstory. The result was that all the characters read a little flat. This time, before I even began, I spent a lot of time thinking "what would make this character likable? Or at least... interesting? Why would people want to hang out with them for 200 pages?" It's a great starting point. Probably because, as this post so eloquently explains, it's the WHOLE point. :)

L. M. Leffew said...

"But if I don't care about the characters, then the story leaves me empty and uninvolved -- it's like watching a play filled with a cast of manikins."

So true.

My favorite books and stories are often the ones who have interesting and memorable characters. Even if the story itself is something I've read a thousand times before.

And the creative part of my brain usually sees fit to give me characters before supplying me with their story, so I'm all about character driven tales.

Sarah said...

"I also want my supporting characters to be real and multifaceted in their own right." -- This is very true. I've read a few works where the writer seems to introduce characters for no reason whatsoever (or just to kill them off if it's a thriller piece). Supporting characters are actually supposed to do something, not act like paper dolls.

Great post! Can't wait to see what else you've got in store for us.

Sarah @ The Writer's Experiment

The Golden Eagle said...

I actually care more about plot than characters when I'm reading (and therefore when I'm writing), but I agree--all characters should be "real" in their own right.

Stephsco said...

I agree, I connect more with character driven stories. A few of my favorite recent books (I read mostly Young Adult these days since that's what I'm writing) have been accused of having minimal plot, and I have to say, if the characters are great, then I can be OK with minimal plot. As long as the character progresses and learns something, and I enjoy their journey, I don't necessarily need lots of twists and turns and intricately detailed plot. On the other hand, I don't connect well with characters who are purposely written as difficult, egotistical and hateworthy, a la most of Bret Easton Ellis' work. I get it, but it's not enjoyable for me to read about awful people.

Just stopping by for the A to Z challenge. I'll try and stop by again!

Anna Smith said...

We just had this discussion in the course I'm doing. They say 'character + conflict = plot'. It would be pretty dull if the character wasn't interesting.

Universal Gibberish

DL Hammons said...

And having a wide variation of characters is key as well, or else the reader will find it hard to keep them straight in their head! :)

Deniz Bevan said...

Great stuff! I agree with you about the importance of characters and creating depth. Especially since I'm in the midst of editing my drafts...

Chris Fries said...

@Nikki: Thank you very much, Nikki! I appreciate your feedback!

@Stephanie: LOL! Oh yeah -- I focus on characters, but plot is absolutely critical too. Stay tuned for a post later this week with a "Genre vs Literary' discussion. Thanks for the response and GREAT to see you around again!

@Simon: Thank you!

@Susan: Well, story is important. Interesting characters doing nothing interesting makes them really not so interesting, right? ;^) But I think character is the most important piece of the puzzle -- the centerpiece everything else is built around. Thanks for the reply, Susan!

@jessica: Thanks! And that's it -- I think character is the foundation stone that you build the story around. You need plot, but I want my characters to be the focus first. I really appreciate your feedback!

@L.M.: Thanks for the comment -- and I totally agree with what you're saying!

@Sarah: Thank you very much! I hope you enjoy the rest of the alphabetical fun. ;^)

@Eagle: Well, plot is vital, but I tend to come to it from my characters. Thanks for the response!

@Stephsco: I agree. And even if I'm writing about truly awful characters, they still need some redeeming qualities to make them interesting, I think. It makes the story more compelling and 'real.' Thank you for the visit and the comment!

@Anna: Absolutely! Thanks for the comment!

@DL: Oh yeah -- you have to anchor them for the reader. Thanks for the visit, my friend!

@Deniz: Thank you! And good luck with editing!