Friday, September 24, 2010

The Great Blogging Experiment



Whenever I spout off about the all-important need for great characters, someone invariably disagrees. True writing success, they say, lies not only in great characters, but in your ability to come up with a great plot and structure, compelling dialogue and so forth. And they aren’t wrong.

In fact, I couldn’t agree more. But the simple truth is this — and I’m not the first to say it: your characters define all those things. They are your story.

Even if you succeed in giving us a wonderful plot and structure, you’ve got nothing unless your characters jump off the page. In writing fiction of any kind, characters are everything. Everything.
~ Robert Gregory Browne

As you know, I approach everything through quotes. When considering a post on compelling characters, I would be remiss not to direct you to this article by Robert Browne at Casting the Bones. It is an article I have bookmarked and refer to often - one of my favorites. To be honest, I probably should have thought to share it with you sooner. Oops! But today's blogfest is the perfect opportunity.

To summarize for you, Mr. Browne lists some important qualities of character. For the full benefit of his article, though, you should seriously go read it!

He approaches character development like this:

  • Characters are Attitude
  • Characters are Emotion
  • Characters Must Have a Goal
  • Character is Action/Dialogue
  • You + Imagination ("Every character I write is me. From the hero and heroine down to that grocery store clerk, every single character I write is… me." - Browne)

Each of these elements is explained in further detail in the full article - here.

There are few writing topics that Elana, Jen, and Alex could have chosen that are more important than our characters. Like Robert Browne says, they are everything!

How about you - anything to add?

For more posts on creating compelling characters, check out the list of blogfest participants at Elana's blog - HERE.

76 comments:

Vicki Rocho said...

I agree...but the one thing I haven't seen anyone add yet is a sense of humor. I thing that is the quickest way to get me to like your character. It doesn't have to be stand-up routine funny, just a subtle acknowledgment that life is crazy will do.

Laura Pauling said...

Thanks for the link, I'll check it out. And I agree, without character, a story doesn't add up to much!

salarsenッ said...

I love putting myself in my character's shoes. Personally, it's a must. I can smell them, feel what they feel. There's a deeper sense of connection which makes them more natural to write.

Jessica Carmen Bell said...

You are the first person to mention 'attitude'. Awesome. Very well said! So, how about we take it outside? huh? huh? ;o)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

wow, I'm going to have like a zabillion links under "Characterization" on my cool links Friday next week. I forgot all about this experiment.

Great advice, Shannon. I love the part about attitude. One way or another, we all have attitude.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

I love your quote. Perhaps I do it backwards, but I first have to know my characters, and only then can I start thinking about the plot and the structure and all the other things that go into making a character compelling.
After reading your post, I am almost tempted to delete mine- it is just another silly drabble :-(

Christine Fonseca said...

yes, yes and yes! You nailed it.

Kelly said...

I really like Characters Are Attitude!!! Well said!

Cleverly Inked said...

I agree, Without a great character there is not great story.

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

So true. I like that characters are Emotion and characters are attitude. So brilliant. A good character makes a good story. :)

Jen said...

Great addition the experiment Shannon! I love that you approach everything with a quote. It's something I look forward to every time I stop by your blog! You can always sum it up with one!

Thanks for joining in the fun!

Angela said...

"I'm every woman, they're all in me!"

Dogmom Diva said...

Hi Shannon, thank you so much for stopping by my blog..stop by anytime!

Barb

j.leigh.bailey said...

There's nothing more frustrating than a book with an exciting plot that falls flat because of flat characters. Great quotes!

Carolyn V. said...

Such great suggestions Shannon! I think the characters attitude is a big deal on how they will react to a situation and how we connect. Thanks for the awesome list! =)

Laurel said...

I especially resonated with the idea of "you + imagination." In every character I write is a bit of me-ness that no other writer can duplicate perfectly.

Talei said...

Ah, totally love Browne's quote. Particularly agree with the plot and structure, dialogue! Also think the compelling character needs a voice to draw us in. ;)

K. Harrington said...

Oh such good information that I needed to read right now. :)

Patti said...

It's true, because even if a book has a slower plot, if the characters are good, you're still invested.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

So true! The characters make the story. Everything comes through them, and if they are flat and lifeless, then the story falls apart. Great quote! thanks for the link!

WindyA said...

Nice summary. I like how you phrase it .. Characters ARE because that is the truth. If they aren't, well then the reader's probably not going to be compelled to read much. Great post!

Jenn Johansson said...

Great article, I'm bookmarking as we speak. Characters are really the glue that makes everything else work or fail. Great post!

Robyn Campbell said...

Attitude is awesome. :) I love your post. I didn't do this experiment. My son's facebook was hacked into and my computer(PC) has a virus. (I'm on the laptop.)

Thanks for such a well thought out post. Love you.

Happy Punctuation Day. :)

Jennie Englund said...

This was SO GOOD to read today!

I've been struggling with plot, plot, plot.

But I forget that at the center is a character! The most important thing!

Elana Johnson said...

I totally agree that characters must encompass everything. Which is why they're so hard to write, which is why (in my opinion) some novels make it onto the shelves and some don't. I think breaking them down into pieces we can see helps. Excellent suggestion on the book -- I'll look it up!

Susan R. Mills said...

Thanks for the link to the article. I'll definitely check it out.

Hannah Kincade said...

I have nothing to add. I do like what Vicki said about a sense of humor but that is not always possible for some people. It's really hard to do "funny" but that's why we have alpha and beta readers to let us know when a joke falls very flat.

Meredith said...

Ooh, I'm definitely bookmarking this article! Such amazing advice. Especially that characters are attitude. Thanks for sharing!

Michelle McLean said...

Oh, I love that list! Excellent post :)

ali said...

I like how he says each character is himself. I think he's totally correct because I feel it for myself. But, strangely, you don't often hear admitted. Great list Shannon. I'm not sure I'd add anything--but as we've already established, I'm not a THINKER, lol.

The Golden Eagle said...

Those are all very true points! I like the last quote especially. Great post!

Danyelle said...

I like that the points are not that characters have attitude or emotion, but that they are attitude and emotion. Awesome thought! :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

You come up with the best quotes. I believe characters are everything, too. We're taking the journey, whatever it is, through their eyes. The notion that the character is actually the attitude, the emotion is a mind-blower. Thank you!

Jen Chandler said...

Super post, Shannon! I love that he says every single character he writes is him. I'm off to check out the article!

Great job!
Jen

Lyla said...

Characters are attitude--I love it! I got a vivid picture of a punk rocker just then. But seriously, attitude is good because it inevitably creates conflict, which, you know, is slightly important!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Susan -

I agree with both you and your quoted expert. Without characters, there is no story.

I enjoy visiting Sight & Sound. They're famous for their grand productions. However, until the actors start speaking, singing, and doing something, their sets have no meaning.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Heather Spiva said...

Hey you! Thanks for posting on my site too. And I like your "Character" blog. Lots of information in it... that I can use, especially Browne's material! Thanks.

arlee bird said...

I'll need to check out the article. I like what you brought from it. The story is the sum of its elements. The action drives the story, the setting colors the story, but the characters define the story. You can take different sets of characters and put them in the same setting encountering the same situations and due to the differences in outlook and background the stories are going to be completely different.

You've add some valid points to the discussion.

Lee
Tossing It Out

arlee bird said...

And whoa! I just became your 500th follower (I thought I was already following). Time for a celebration.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Great post, Shannon! I think something you hit on that I haven't seen in many places is imagination....WTG!

Have a lovely weekend!

Holly Ruggiero, Southpaw said...

I like this concept - being every character.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Excellent points!
Glad you participated in the blogfest.

Nicki Elson said...

Thanks for the reference & link. That's really interesting what he says about giving even the teensiets characters a goal, even if it's simply something like being tired and wanting to go home. That one's definitely going to stick with me.

Nice place you have here1

Valerie Ipson said...

Thanks for the link and for visiting my blog!

Annette Lyon said...

So well put! W/out a solid character, there IS no story.

Summer Ross said...

Wonderful post! "your characters define all those things. They are your story. " This is by far one of the best lines I've read so far.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Excellent points. Attitude and emotions are key when writing compelling characters.

Melissa said...

This robert guy is brilliant! Not only is it great advice...but it is soooo true. I mean, all my characters ARE me, I've always felt that. The difference is, I am not them. Did I confuse you?

I dno, but it makes sense to me.

No idea where you get all of this brilliant quotes all the time, I'm slightly jealous.

L'Aussie said...

Thank you for the link to Robert Browne. It sounds good and I like the tips you shared with us. I guess in answer to Vicki's thought about characters having a sense of humour, if we follow the tips that a lot of people have given, about being well fleshed, having emotion, attitude etc, a sense of humour comes with these things.

Thanks Shannon for coming by my blog, commenting and following..:)

Lisa Potts said...

Shannon, I agree. Character is the cornerstone of everything.

I hadn't read the article you mentioned. Thanks for the link!

Elaine AM Smith said...

I agree with you and the clever Robert Browne.
Your first commenter said you need humour? I might enjoy humour but don't need it give me a grouch with attitude, and determination and I'm there, too.

lbdiamond said...

Love the quote--definitely something to ponder!

Stephen Tremp said...

Great and compelling characters can often help move along a story that is average at best. I like live my life through my characters. There is a little bit of me in most of them. Even the bad guys. Why not? Makes developing characters a little bit easier.

Stephen Tremp

RaShelle said...

I love quotes too. I agree that a great story comes from great characters and the reason is that when I'm finding out all of my information about my characters, my story gets clearer - more in focus. Thank you.

Kittie Howard said...

I agree that characters have to have flaws and appear real, but I also look for characters who have strong inner fiber, have a sense of humor, and who fit into life's setting. I've read too many books where the characters just didn't belong in the setting assigned.

Tamika: said...

I love Browne's quote! It was wondering if I was the only one who felt like every character was me:)

I'm off to read the article!

Olivia J. Herrell said...

Shannon, great post! And thank you so much for the article. I'm clicking over there now to bookmark it.

Great entry! ~that rebel, Olivia

Alicia Gregoire said...

I love the bulleted list on how to approach character development. Since my brain is overtaxed right now, it beats reading the article. (But I will!)

Great post.

Jemi Fraser said...

Characters are Emotion! And Attitude! That's completely awesome. Perfect :)

N. R. Williams said...

I agree 100% with you and Mr. Browne. Your post says it all.
Nancy
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Erica M. Chapman said...

I love the quotes. Excellent ideas in this post! Thank you ;o) Going to check out Robert's article!

Lynda Young said...

Great points :)
Characters are attitude and emotion.. I like that especially

L.T. Elliot said...

All my characters are me, too. And I think my characters definitely have the attitude thing down. ;)

Len said...

I totally agree to everything you said...and thank you for sharing those links! I also like the quote 'Every character I write is me...' by Browne. These are all great stuff and very good information, Shannon! Thanks so much! :) I will now check the article by Robert Browne at Casting the Bones. :)

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Wonderful, interesting, and pleasurable to read. Thanks I have enjoyed your post.

Have a grand week-end;
Yvonne.

Serena said...

true Our characters are everything, even a great story line can be dragged down by poor charaterisation!

Thanks for commenting and following.

Renae said...

Wonderful post! I love that you mentioned attitude. Very important! Well said!

Mary Campbell said...

Great way to break it down and thanks for the link. Characters are attitude and emotion - love it.

Karen Lange said...

Wonderful! Thanks for the link. Will check it out.
Have a great weekend,
Karen :)

Faith said...

Ooh yes, dialogue is a great way to develop & reveal character. I think 'voice' also ties into that.

I also think all my characters have a little bit of me inside of them... whether good or bad, there I am in some small way.

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Hi Shannon! I so agree with you and Browne alike. Every character is ME. Really. I got them from none other than. Me.

Thank you so much for sharing that precious link with us!

Come and visit me!

Julie said...

Great post! My MC loves the "Characters are Attitude" bit. She owns that one. :)

Krispy said...

Totally agree that the characters are the key in fiction. They really are everything. I can deal with a so-so plot if the characters shine. Great quote!

DL Hammons said...

You're right! How our characters react to the gyrations our plot puts them through is what makes interesting reading! :)

Pam Torres said...

Thanks for the resources. I think part of being a writer is continuously honing your skills. Thanks!

Cinette said...

I read a book a few months ago that I don't remember reading. It's on my ALREADY READ list and I recognise the cover, but I've drawn a complete blank on the story AND the MC. Even if I don't remember the entire story, I always remember the characters, except this time. I agree, the characters carry the story (or not);-)

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