Good characters can make or break your novel.
An audience will follow an extraordinary, kick-ass character through any number of complex scenes, plot twists, and controversial decisions. As a writer, you already know that the best characters are layered, multi-dimensional beings who can think for themselves. You know that you have to go inside each character to get something awesome happening on the outside.
Every writer knows that bad writing usually includes one-dimensional characters. Readers aren’t satisfied by a story in which the heroes are sugary sweet and the villains seem motivated only by pure evil. Not only is it difficult to get emotionally attached to characters with superficial personalities, but their actions don’t add much to the story. We already know what they’re going to do before they do it, and why. Because they’re good. Or because they’re evil. Case closed.
Last week I listened to the Saturday morning Dharma Talk from the SF Zen Center by Rosalie Curtis. The subject of her talk was sangha, which in its simplest form means “community.” Curtis mentioned that her favorite definition of sangha is “a community of people who come together to do something good,” which I really liked. It resonated with me because the moment I started thinking about community, I started thinking about writers. Specifically, I thought about how I meet with my own little sangha of writers on Thursday nights, but also how I’ve recently joined larger sanghas of writers online in the past few months.
I saw a question posted the other day in the Writer’s Discussion Group on Google+.
“Would you rather write the next hot bestseller or a classic that will be studied in classrooms for years to come?”
I found this question so intriguing because my reaction to it was so fast and strong. I thought, “Of course I want to write a classic. Who doesn’t?” And then I read the comments. Turns out, some writers want to write classics, and some want to write the next hot bestseller.
You’re Just Not That Into It
When you start writing a new novel, it’s like the honeymoon phase of a new love affair. Everything about your story is soooo interesting. You could sit for days and just stare into your protagonist’s eyes. By the time you’ve written the first one-third of your book though, the bloom is off the rose. If you’re not truly compatible with the book you’re trying to write, this is the time you’ll get those red flags loud and clear. Everyone hits that hump in the middle, but if you only dread writing your story and you’re never excited to see it again, it’s time to seriously reevaluate this project.