You write fiction.
Want to improve it? Here you go: focus on your characters. Fiction is always about the people.
People care about people. Of course your “people” might be purple dragons from the outer reaches of the galaxy, or rabbits as in Watership Down.
How to write fiction: it’s always about the PEOPLE
It’s impossible to emphasize this enough. Here’s an excerpt from Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today.
Readers read fiction for the people. Therefore, no matter how amazing the story world you’ve created, start your blurb with your story person; your main character.
The most common error I see authors make in fiction blurbs is that they start by describing their story world.
This rarely works, because… who cares? We’ve no reason to care about your amazing world until we meet the characters who inhabit that world.
So let’s look at some tips for assembling a cast of characters for your novel (or short fiction).
1. Think in terms of an ensemble cast
An “ensemble” is a bunch of things or people intended to be used together.
Here’s why an ensemble matters when you’re collecting a cast for your current or next book: you get to differentiate your cast.
You’ve heard the writing advice to “contrast your characters.” Characters in bestselling fiction, hit movies, or long-running TV series, always play off each other. They’re different.
My favorite example of contrasting characters is the movie The Odd Couple, original version. Felix and Oscar couldn’t be more different.
My favorite quote from the movie:
(Oscar) I can’t take it anymore, Felix, I’m cracking up. Everything you do irritates me. And when you’re not here, the things I know you’re gonna do when you come in irritate me. You leave me little notes on my pillow. Told you 158 times I can’t stand little notes on my pillow. “We’re all out of cornflakes. F.U.” Took me three hours to figure out F.U. was Felix Ungar!
2. Collect intriguing jobs to help you to create intriguing people
In Fiction Writing Tips For Beginners: Create A Character there’s a fast and simple character creation template:
- Primary external problem
Your plot is what people do.
Notice the “occupation” in the template? Harping on bestselling fiction, hit movies, or long-running TV series again, what your characters do to earn a crust is important.
- James Bond (secret service agent);
- Harry Potter (apprentice wizard);
- Super heroes…
Of course, you don’t need to write about secret service agents, wizards, et al. Your characters’ occupations can be more mundane. Check out the classifieds in your local paper, or even job hunting websites to find fun occupations.
For example, in Dying To Please, Linda Howard’s romance novel, the main character is a female butler.
3. Keep a collection of intriguing situations too
Similarly to collecting intriguing occupations, collect intriguing situations.
- Gossip: family and friends’ gossip, as well as news stories and celebrity gossip;
- Nonfiction books, especially histories, as well as biographies and autobiographies;
- Your imagination.
Writers and authors tend to be magpies. We collect glittering bits and pieces which attract our attention. We may never use those bits and pieces, but items in your collection will inspire your “what if” brainstorming sessions.
I keep my various collections in Evernote, primarily because I can jot down something intriguing anywhere I happen to be.
When you write fiction, you’re writing about people
To hammer the point once again: fiction is always about the people.
Another example of the importance of people. I just received an email promotion for Sally Koslow’s Another Side of Paradise: A Novel.
The callout sentence…
In 1937 Hollywood, gossip columnist Sheilah Graham’s star is on the rise, while literary wonder boy F. Scott Fitzgerald’s career is slowly drowning in booze.
The movie The Great Gatsby came out a few years back and I just did a search for “F. Scott Fitzgerald.” Lots references to him in Google, as well as suggestions for additional searches. Fitzgerald died in 1940, but there’s still considerable interest in him, which means that Sally Koslow’s novel should do well.
Remember (a final time): fiction is about people.
Happy writing. 🙂
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