Friday, September 24, 2010

Blogfest: How to write compelling characters

[ Elana JohnsonJennifer Daiker, and Alex J Cavanaugh came up with  what they call "The Great Blogging Experiment". Nearly 200 bloggers writing about what goes into Writing a Compelling Character. I could have written a tome, but decided to restrict  my entry to exactly 100 words.]

"I know you wrote that I could do nothing to my hair. You did, didn't you? Let me tell you I can do something to my hair. I can get a crewcut. What do you say to that?"
"If you make me a single mother with a boss from hell, a hormonal second grader and a Know-it-all mother, how do you expect me to survive without any vices? I don't care if passive smoking is bad for my child, I am going to start smoking."

The secret to writing compelling characters? Just let them decide how they want to be.

_____
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.


Today, I am also at  Burrowers, Books & Balderdash with a Motivational Friday post that talks of getting the Fun back into our Life and our Writing.



43 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Rayna - What wonderful advice! And you're right; if we let characters develop as they want to, they become much more natural, don't they? They simply are more real that way.

Dyche Designs said...

I love how you are able to convey so much in 100 words.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Clever, Rayna! I just knew you'd do it in a drabble, too.

Jessica Carmen Bell said...

hahs! Unique!!! I loved this. Nice to see such a different take on this blogfest :o) Well done! :o)

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Margot- to be honest, I don't have much of a choice. I write only when those pesky characters start irritating me so much, I need to get them out of my brain.

@ Kathryn- thank you

@ Alex- I couldn't disappoint, could I?

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Jessica - thanks. My characters are mad at me because I have been neglecting them. So I decided to give them 100 words.

Cruella Collett said...

Definitely a unique take on this challenge, Natasha! The only time I tried this with a character, she ended up making fun of me. We are still not on speaking terms...

Meika said...

Haha you summed it up perfectly! Awesome!

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Excellent advice, Rayna. I don’t always approve of what my characters do, but I find it’s important to let them be who they are.

Michele Emrath said...

Definitely. I still remember the first time a character took over the plot from me. Strange but magical moment. I knew then I had a real person on my hands.

Looking forward to your entry to my blogfest! Click by today to see my entry and others'.

Michele
SouthernCityMysteries

Elana Johnson said...

Fantastic! Sometimes I try to rein in my characters, and yeah, it never goes well. Excellent advice.

Carolyn Abiad said...

Love it! Hey, I get so much backtalk from my kids, why not take it from my characters?

PK Hrezo said...

Love your blog name!! :) Great example. I'm yur newest follower #185.
Cheers!

Hart Johnson said...

Natasha- this is so true! It is why I start my characterization by writing a scene or two, KNOWING it may get dropped, but how do I know how a character will act if I don't ASK HER?! (it is how my Cozy MC turned out to be a little fast & loose with the truth--I never would have intentionally put a liar in charge, but i think it WORKS!)

Clarissa Draper said...

That's great! It's so important to let our characters guide the story.

CD

Dorte H said...

That is so true!

This summer I asked my readers to help me when I needed new names for the monster twins of my cosy mystery. They came up with several great ideas, and I had almost made up *my* mind before I remembered to think of their fictional mother. She said "Rhett and Scarlett" and was quite annoyed I could even consider any of the other names.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

You say so much in so few words!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

That was amazing. You packed motivation and past history into a few lines of dialogue. Wonderful!

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Mari- I just let them take over! And do you think my characters don't mock me? They do all the time.

@ Meika- thank you.

@ Jane- I am sure I will not get along with too many of my characters. But I love them all.

@ Michele- it is a magical moment, isn't it?
And I've read your entry, and am looking forward to the rest. Wish I could post mine right away, but it has to remain scheduled for a little later :-(

@ Elana- thank you. And characters never behave, do they?

@ Carolyn- that is another way of looking at it ;-)

@ PK Hrezo- welcome to the blog, and I shall look you up during the weekend.

@ Tami- yes, those scenes are so important, aren't they? Even if none of them make it, they need to exist to make the characters real

@ Clarissa- with my characters, I don't have a choice.

@ Dorte- how could you have not asked the mother? She is the best person to know!

@ Diane- thank you.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Tricia - thank you. Though, it was actually the characters who did it.

J.C. Martin said...

Very true. Had my character run away from me a couple of times. Sometimes that's the best thing to happen.

Mary said...

Success in 100 words! I love the way you amaze.

VR Barkowski said...

Rayna, this is the single best piece of advice I've heard. I've tried to tell my characters how to be, and it's useless. The longer I write, the more I trust them to guide me.

And I'm so impressed you did this in 100 words! I had trouble keeping my post under 500! Yikes!

lettucehead said...

Ha, what a different approach, I like it! Thanks for making me think ;)

Melissa said...

One of the most original approaches today.

Our characters should be how they want to be, not what we think they should be. Great.

Jemi Fraser said...

Awesome!! So very, very true - great drabble :)

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Mary- thank you. Once you start writing in 100 words, it is easier to do it in 100 than in more!

@ Vera- thank you. Trusting our characters to behave makes sure they do behave, isn't it? Same is true with kids too.

@ lettucehead- thank you for stopping by. And that is the only way that works for me.

@ Melissa- thank you. I've found the more you try to dictate your characters, the more they tend to rebel.

@ Jemi- thank you.

slommler said...

So true!! Let them be who they want to be.
"If someone tells you who they are; believe them". Mya Angelou
Hugs
SueAnn

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ SueAnn - that is a lovely quote. Thank you.

gargimehra said...

Good one, truly short but sweet

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I love what you did with the photo! Very clever!

Faith said...

Love this approach & the accompanying photo! It's so true... we just need to let them speak and decide to listen.

Also, I can relate to this blog's title. My rough drafts must hate me for all the coffee rings I leave on them... *blush*

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Gargi - thank you for stopping by, and for your lovely comments.

@ Sharon- thank you- was wondering if anyone would get it!

@ Faith- thank you. And we all leave tea or coffee rings everywhere, don't we?

Quinn said...

This is perhaps the most unique post I've seen. Great advice too!

N. R. Williams said...

Show don't tell should start out that descriptive way of explaining 'How to Write Compelling Characters.'
Nice.
Nancy
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Quinn- thank you. And thank you for dropping by

@ Nancy - I never thought of it that way. But to be honest, I would rather have a quick tell than a tedious show, if you know what I mean.

Pam Torres said...

What a lot in only 100 words. Genius!

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Thank you, Pam. You made me blush.

Nicole Zoltack said...

It's amazing how many times my characters dictate the story. Then again, I'm a panster so if they don't know where the story is going, I'm in trouble, lol

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Nicole - I am like you. But they do know where they are going, so I don't worry too much.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Compelling characters are strong-minded enough to boss their writer around!

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Sandra - they do, don't they? Thank you for following.

AND YOU ARE MY 200TH FOLLOWER!!!

Heather Spiva said...

FINALLY getting around to reading the rest of the "Character" blogs.
Well done! I really like the drabble for this day.
Nice to "meet" you. :)
-H

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