Wow! Yesterday, I opened up the floor for questions on how to create characters, and you all came up with some great ones. I think we’ll be on this thread for awhile.
A reminder: I’ll be out of town over the weekend, and won’t be home till Monday afternoon. I’ll blog Monday night, but Tuesday night is when the next e-zine goes out, so I won’t blog then either. However, you are all free to keep the dialogue going by posting comments here.
Several of you asked about how a woman can write a male POV character. About three years ago, I gave a lecture on this very topic which made me a bit famous because I told the truth about guys. I’m told the talk was quite funny, but I wouldn’t know because I was busy trying not to hyperventilate. The CD used to be available online, but I didn’t find it just now in a quick search.
Barb noted that Shaunti Feldhan’s book FOR WOMEN ONLY explains how men think. I will second this. The book is very clear. My wife had a copy and so I read it to see what Shaunti had to say. I learned that some of the things about guys that I had assumed were “obvious” and “well-known” were apparently not obvious or well-known to women. And that told me something about women. I highly recommend the book.
How do I work with a character’s voice if he carries a different diction level than I am used to? My novel involves high-born people. I have been trying to absorb myself in high diction in my reading and research, but the colloquial keeps cropping up in the actual writing. In narrative summary, the character’s voice often holds strong and true, but during scenes it fades. Are there any specific techniques for holding a character’s voice like this?
Randy sez: This is why you edit yourself later, AFTER you write the first draft. Just write the scene first and get all the conflict right. Edit it later to get the diction right, when you can focus on just that.
Is it wise to base one of the characters in a work of fiction, including her storyline, on a real person and certain disasters that really happened to her? Particularly where this lady is the widow of a famous international bestselling author?
Randy sez: I’m not a lawyer, so my answers are not legally of any value. (There, I’ve just covered my butt.) In the US, the libel laws are fairly loose and public figures probably have little protection from this sort of thing. In the UK, the libel laws are a lot stronger, and you’d likely be in deep doo-doo doing dat. I’d be really cautious about doing it, myself.
If you saw ADAPTATION, starring Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep, you’ll know that Streep’s character is about a real author, Susan Orlean, who wrote a real book, THE ORCHID THIEF. In the movie, Cage’s character is a screenwriter trying to adapt this book to a screenplay and failing miserably. Streep’s character is portrayed as having a drug-laced affair with the primary character in THE ORCHID THIEF, something that did NOT happen in real life. As I understand it, the movie producers had to get Susan Orlean’s permisson to use her real name. And of course, Cage’s character is Charlie Kaufman, the guy who actually wrote the screenplay. A very twisted movie.
Bottom line: It sounds risky, unless you can get permission.
I sit down and write a character for some time, finish it, but then I find I always create perfect people. People I would love to be. People with amazing powers and things like that (though not always perfect personalities) and then I get all bogged down and add some things bad about the character which don’t suit him/her at all. What do you think I should do?
Randy sez: One word–kryptonite. That’s Superman’s weakness. Everybody has a weakness. It sounds to me like you’re writing “larger-than-life” characters. That’s fine. I do too. Just make sure they have weaknesses, and that the weaknesses are larger than life also. As for finding weaknesses that don’t suit your characters, we can’t have that. Find ones that suit them. If you can’t think of any, go read some biographies of famous people similar to your characters. That should give you some ideas.
OK, enough for today. I’ll be back Monday night to answer more of your excellent questions. Until then, carry on the conversation!