Friday, February 26, 2010

More On Characters

Three more days until my interview with YA author/agent Mandy Hubbard. It all happens Monday March 1st. There will be a chance to win a copy of Mandy's book, Prada and Prejudice. But ya havta be a follower. Hope to see you here. =)
In his book, Revision & Self-Editing, Mr. Bell reminds us that minor characters and opposition characters give us "delicious plot possibilities." Minor characters add spice, that extra spark that distinguishes the absolute best fiction. Put effort into them. They're important.

"Supporting characters should serve one of two purposes in a story. They either help or hinder the main character. They are allies or irritants." If they aren't helping or hindering, they are just taking up space.

He talks about one of my personal favorite books, David Copperfield. David's beloved nanny Peggotty, is an ally. She reappears at various times offering David much needed support.
Contrast that with Miss Murdstone, the vicious sister of David's stepfather. Miss Murdstone (don't you love that name?) is an irritant. She stands in the way of David's happiness.

Mr. Bell says, "neither character is wasted. Each functions to illuminate a different side of David's character. When you conceive  a minor character this way, you open up wonderful plot opportunities."

He brings to our minds the fact that even the most chilling villian should  evoke pity and sometimes even genuine sympathy as well as terror. Remember the pitiful Frankenstein monster?

Mr. Bell gives us some deepening questions to ask our villains.
What are you good at?
What admirable qualities do you possess?
What do other characters think of you?
Why might  people be drawn to you, or at least be fascinated by you?

Awesome stuff, isn't it? (^_^)

43 comments:

  1. Yay for your upcoming interview!

    Very good information. I love the idea of making those characters count, and Frankenstein's monster says it all. :)

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  2. A member of my critique group shared a quote that says, "Every character has to want something even it's only a glass of water." I though that was so profound!
    BTW, I will be praying for Kate. Her story took my breath away.

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  3. Great post. I like my villains to be, well, human. I want to know 'why' they are doing what they're doing? What made Robyn decide to kidnap the SuperBowl winning Titans and hold them hostage? Well, after the Dolphins stunning failure not to make it to the playoffs twenty years in a row, diehard Dolphins fan Robyn just, well, snapped!!!!

    I think, as a reader, we need to releate to all the characters, and not just the main character. : )

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  4. Dani, I know, YAY! Yahooooo

    The Frankenstein monster says it better than anything could, doesn't it Dani? =)

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  5. Amy, I have heard that quote. Very profound. And thank you for praying for Kate. She's been in a lot of pain but her white blood cells are coming in now. She has about 200. That's a start. =)

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  6. How refreshing...some insight into minor characters and villains. I've been focusing so much on the development of my protagonist and not of her undermining, kook, of a boyfriend. Maybe I need to further develop him. The minor characters are coming along though.

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  7. Nice post. I like the encouragement to look at every character (supporting or otherwise) with a microscope to decide if they fulfill their role--or not.

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  8. Yes, ma'am - very awesome stuff! And you are awesome for sharing it with us! Thanks, Robyn. :-)

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  9. It is very awesome stuff! Thank you for sharing! Have a wonderful weekend, my friend! :-)

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  10. Great reminder to make the secondary characters work hard for their right to be in the book! I think I need some of them to do more hindering in the middle. Yes, definitely. Thanks!

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  11. I had a real tendency to make my antagonists too one dimensional .. it was something I have worked on (and continue to work on) overcoming.

    hooray for an interview and give away! happy weekend :D :D :D

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  12. Scott!! Grrrrrrrrr!! Twenty years in a row? Uh, lemme think. Oh that's right. The Titans have NEVER won a Super bowl, and only played in one. AW, bless their hearts. It is JUST so sad. *sniff* Ahahahaha So sad, NOT!

    You mean diehard Dolphin fans went after Scott M. after Robyn sent reports of Scott's unDolphin behavior. Scott was heard to say, "The Dolphins are unbeatable. The Dolphins are the greatest. And I Scott M. am proud to be a Dolfan." At last sighting, Scott was wearing a Marino jersey to which he had added the words, Marino is the greatest. *grin* That whole thing that I just wrote there has me smiling.

    As readers, we do need to relate to all the characters. Not just the main character. I mean, if I'm reading about Scott lovin the Dolphins I can relate. hehe =)

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  13. Ayesha, good to see you. The villains are just as important as the MC's. They are what drives the plot onward. And I'm glad your minor characters are coming along. =)

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  14. Chantal, I am loving this discussion on characters. I love writing them and developing them. And if they do not fulfill their role, what good are they? Toss 'em. They are just taking up space. Right? =)

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  15. Shannon, thanks for your comment. Awesome ALWAYS is surrounded by awesome, as in Shannon O'Donnell. =)

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  16. Jody, thank you. I hope to get some writing done this weekend. I have a ton of agent blogs to look at too. I hope your weekend is most beautiful. You truly deserve it. Thanks for being there for me. =)

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  17. Laurel, I needed to do some hindering too. And it sure was fun. And Laurel we all need reminding some times. =)

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  18. Falling into the tendency to make villians one dimentional is easy...their the bad guy after all! We don't have much affection for them. ;)
    But it's true, if they aren't as real as our heroes they can hamper the overall story.
    Great post!

    Btw, I'm asking writers to tell me their perspective of description on my blog today. I'd love to have your opinion!.

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  19. Tess, me too. Amen! That was my problem. My antags were, uh, way one dimensional. No stand out features for me to play with. It is a continual thing that I work on, but the more I work on it, the less I have to work on it. You get it? It is becoming second nature to make my villains more interesting.

    YAY for the interview and give away. WOOT. =)

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  20. Emily, I'll pop over right after I have lunch.

    And you are right. The villains are the bad guys and we aren't supposed to love them lots. But they do need attributes that we can identify with them.

    Take the Koontz character Thomas Shadduck in the book, Midnight. He's the evil genius but when we find out how he came to be so evil and twisted, we have sympathy for him. Cool stuff. =)

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  21. Excellent points! Make every character matter.

    Thanks Robyn!

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  22. Such wonderful comments and teaching guide!
    I forget to add dimension to my villians and sometimes they end up being mean nasty people. Bo-ring!

    Have a great weekend!
    Patti

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  23. I know you must be very excited! Congratulations.

    Every protog has to have a little crack in the hardened exterior through which we can see a little light.

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  24. Tamika, you're welcome. Yes! Make every character matter. =)

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  25. Thanks Patti! The comments are great aren't they? You have a wonderful weekend too. =)

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  26. Thanks Bish. I like what you say about seeing a little light. Very apropos. Thanks Bish. =)

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  27. I'm so in love with villains. When he/she is done right, they can be the favorite character! I feel that way about my current antagonist. I hope everyone else will someday as well. Great post!

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  28. Nisa, you know everyone else will feel that way someday SOON. =)

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  29. Glad to see you blogging again, Robyn. This was a great post, btw. And good luck with the interview.:)

    Hope all is well with you!

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  30. Hey Laura. Thanks so much. All is well for now. Thanks and come read the interview. =)

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  31. Interesting take on characters. I do believe this as well. I'll be back for the interview!!!

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  32. Hi Robyn -

    I popped over here from Facebook and signed up as a Follower. :)

    Blessings,
    Susan

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  33. Heyya T. Anne. Yes please come back on Monday. And gotta love our characters. =)

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  34. Welcome Susan- nice to have you. Please come back on Monday to read Mandy's interview. She is awesome. =)

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  35. I love Bell's books, fiction and non fiction. Thanks for sharing these thoughts, I appreciate it.
    Have a great weekend everyone,
    Karen

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  36. As always, I love this post! Can't wait to stop by on Monday! :)

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  37. Awesome news about your upcoming interview!

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  38. Robyn, you have an award waiting for you in my blog. :)

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  39. I look forward to the interview - "Prada and Prejudice" sounds like a great book..

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  40. Robyn--just started following you but have already gleaned good stuff from your posts. Thanks!

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  41. I love keeping this in mind, Robyn! It really can make a story come to life. Now if only I remembered it in my own writing.

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  42. 原來這世上能跟你共同領略一個笑話的人竟如此難得........................................

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