- The one thing you need to achieve writing success (5/27/14)
- Share your wisdom in a self-help, how-to book (5/13/14)
- We don't have time for half-truths (4/29/14)
- Ending near or from afar? (4/15/14)
- The many faces of memoir (and poetry) (4/1/14)
- April is memoir month (3/18/14)
- Featuring ... your business? (3/4/14)
Character: the most important element of your story
We read, it has been said, to experience other lives. To see the world and our own humanity from a different perspective. To understand the culture or the emotions of people from different countries or social positions or periods of history.
We read to see the world through different eyes and to understand ourselves by considering the universal traits that connect us all.
And you thought you did it just for fun.
It is fun, and the better the writer does his job, the more fun it is. And what is the writer's job? To give the reader all the experiences that I mentioned in the first paragraph.
How is all that accomplished? Through one important writing skill: character.
The writer must make the reader feel what the character feels. Not just tell us what he feels or even show us what he feels. We must see life through new eyes.
I think the most intriguing books are the ones written from the standpoint of a murderer or someone who does something we would never do. "The Confessions of Nat Turner" comes to mind. And "Lolita." We hate these characters as monsters and yet, we can't stop seeing how they see, and, despite ourselves, we understand their darkness even as we deplore it.
But on a happier note, we can experience great adventures, great loves, great success through characters in books. And, my favorite, we can experience redemption. We can watch a character change and grow and become a different person by the end of the book. "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done. . ."
Because character is so important to story, the Village Writing School will be focusing on how to develop and convey the inner workings of a character in our next two workshops and in our Thursday Writers' Night Out.
Jan Morrill, author of "The Red Kimono," published this year by U of A Press, will be teaching a half-day workshop this Saturday (Sept. 21) at the Garden Bistro in Eureka Springs.
If you watch the trailer for "The Red Kimono" on Morrill's website, JanMorrill.com, you see the importance of character. The workshop begins at 1 p.m. and the cost is $25.
Two weeks later, on Oct. 5, Pam Foster will explore other techniques for developing character, including internalization, or what I call interior monologue. This important technique is a valuable tool for the writer, but is often overlooked. The workshop also begins at 1 p.m. and is $25.
But in the meantime, every Thursday evening at the Garden Bistro, the Village Writing School has Writers' Night Out. This is open to anyone who has any interest in writing, even if you haven't written anything yet.
This free evening of food, fun and fellowship is designed to give local writers a chance to meet one another, talk about their writing dreams and encourage each other.
But we also have a brief program, and for the next three weeks, we will be talking about creating characters. This week, on Thursday (Sept. 19), two seasoned actors will perform a dramatic reading and then we will discuss how we writers can convey the subtle messages that the actors convey with their expressions, tone and body language. This should be a lot of fun and, again, is free and open to anyone.
Character. It's all-important in any story, even if it's a true story and the character is you.
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Alison Taylor-Brown has an MFA in Fiction and a lifetime of teaching experience. She directs the Village Writing School (villagewritingschool.com) to foster the development of area writers through workshops, writing circles, coaching, and special events. Her column, The Village View, appears weekly. To talk to Alison about your writing goals and dreams, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 479-292-3665.