Write Great Fiction - Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint Paperback – Mar 15 2005
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So many books on creating characters speak to their physical description, wants, motives and give the character a background. This book goes a step further and tells you how to do those things and hits the key point of showing emotion.
In addition, chapter Eight titled "Talking About Emotion -- Dialogue and Thoughts" was worth the price of the book alone.
Other great topics were "Showing Change in Your Characters" and "Frustration -- The Most Useful Emotion in Fiction."
Like the other books in the series, Appendix A recaps the author's critical points. Thus for the impatient reader, jump to this appendix and read what the book is about. For those of us who enjoy the journey of the reading the previous 200+ pages, the appendix is a nice summary.
Overall, this felt like the first book that brought all the concepts of characterization into one place and provided me with an easy to follow roadmap to creating, deepening and SHOWING my characters off in my story.
My recommended characterization plan:
1) Read this book as a guide on how to breath life into your characters and what you are trying to accomplish with your characters. (Characters are not there by accident!)
2) Pick up The Marshall Plan of Novel Writing by Evan Marshal or First Draft in 30 Days by Karen Weisner. Both of these books take many of the concepts listed in this book and put them into templates and forms you can fill out to plot your novel
3) Write. Write. Write.
Don't do what I did and spend the last ten years reading more on writing than actually writing. Get that first 1 million words written asap!!
While you are doing it, read this book, which has found a permanent place on my book shelf as a handy reference and reminder of what makes a successful cast of characters.
Buy this book, read it once through without doing the exercises. Then read it again, doing the exercises. You won't regret it.
For this particular book, Nancy Kress does do a good job of exploring each element in detail. Like the other books, it is largely an overview of each concept, and, like the other books, she does hit on some similar aspects that the other books cover more extensively (how could she not? All aspects work together to create a work of fiction.) That is to say, the other Write Great Fiction books all cover every aspect of a piece of fiction, but mainly discuss how they relate to the given topic they wrote their respective book about. So brief overviews are found in the other books and each aspect is covered extensively in the given work. So "Plot" focuses on plot while giving smaller and more general explanations of characters, description, dialogue, etc. while "Dialogue" does the same with plot, description, characters etc. while keeping the focus on dialogue and so on and so forth. I would recommend a would-be author grab all four of these books, as this would then allow them to see the whole picture.
My main problem with this particular book is that when she gets to the section where she delves deeply into first person, at one point at least she goes into a small rabbit trail about why some readers don't like and will never read first person. Apparently they're willing to read books but not willing to suspend their disbelief that the character narrating the work was an active participant. It makes absolutely no sense to me but I am not going to judge these people. My problem with this is that she goes a little bit longer talking about this than what the situation merits, spending at least a page or two on the subject, yet she says NOTHING of authors who write their books in the present tense, even though this style is easily as equally jarring and disengaging as first person, actually more so in my opinion. Why she ignores the pitfalls of writing in present tense yet shows the pitfalls of first person, second person, third person, first person plural, third person plural, multiple first person, multiple third person, hybrid, (and there's more but you get the point,) is beyond me.
All in all a good book and I would recommend it.
Edit on Saturday February 14th: I would also recommend "The Complete Writers Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes" by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever and Sue Viders.
The characterization section is wonderful. Among other things it suggests complex characters that are revealed through the problems the author brings their way. Ensure they have a backstory and if they change through the book be sure to dramatize it at the end. Also covers different types of characters for different types of fiction.
The emotion section was great. Good examples and more general than the rediculous book "creating character emotions" by hood, there, I won't even capitalize the title or author of that mess. Important emotions are covered in detail such as loving, fighting, and dying with a complete chapter on the most important emotion of all for your lead character. Can you guess what it is? Nancy Kress will tell you.
Finally viewpoint. I have read several books already on this subject yet Nancy Kress sweetens the pot even more. Good advice and examples.
I would like to add, most books I have read on writing, where the author quotes works for examples of good prose, seem to fall flat. Apparently you must read the entire book quoted to fully appreciate the snippit given as an example. Surprisingly, Nancy Kress steps up to the mound and pitches some wonderful examples that STAND ON THEIR OWN. Nice work Nancy.
I bought all but one of the Elements of Fiction Writing. Home runs. However this new series from Writers Digest Books, the Write Great Fiction series with its four books surpasses them. Together the four books are a GRAND SLAM!