I’ll be teaching an Advanced Craft Course here at Savvy Authors in just a few days, so I thought I’d spotlight one important technique that we’ll cover in class (and lots more!)
I call it, Be the Dude.
See, I have a radical theory. I don’t think that readers come to us for stories. They come for the characters.
Don’t believe me? Consider your favorite books. Why are they your favorites? Yes, Star Wars has a great plot, as does Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Hunger Games. But what would they be without Luke, Harry, Frodo, and Katniss?
Unsold, that’s what they’d be.
Characterization is a tricky beast. How do you write a well-rounded character so real that the reader feels like they have a new friend by the end of the book?
Instead of “write what you know,” try writing what you feel.
Start with action, start quiet – doesn’t matter. What is important is the character and the emotion. Especially in your beginning – You’re not grabbing the reader’s eyes; your goal should be to grab their heart. These are great shortcuts to ‘show’ who your character is, and what they want. You can do this with a lot fewer words than you think.
For example, I am starting a new story. I wanted a scene to show the reader who she is. This is what I came up with:
Her date stood before the huge Andy Gilmore geometric painting that pulled the eye, since it held the only color in the loft. “Why do you like this?”
“What’s not to like?” Jacqueline stood two steps behind him, sipping her sparkling water. “I find it soothing. Precise lines creating dimensions. Color neatly contained. No spills, no frills, no questions.”
What did you learn about her in those 57 words?
- She’s formal – Jacqueline, not Jackie, JJ, or Jack
- She colors inside the lines – organized and segmented
- Buttoned down
- Stays aloof – space between them
- Controlled – water, not booze.
Just by showing what art she likes in art, I was able to tell you a lot about the character. Think about how you can do this in a scene of yours.
To make a fully rounded character that readers believe is true, you have to BE THE DUDE. In a way, you must become the character. They have to react, not as you would, but as THEY would. You have to build the character and walk around in their skin, looking out of their eyes, and seeing the world as THEY would see it, given their background, upbringing, and world-view.
You can’t afford to break character – readers will notice.
I started a video blog I call, Write Stuff, answering craft questions for authors. I’m having a blast. Here’s the one I did on Be the Dude. Hope it helps.
Oh, and you can view the others and sign up to have new installments sent to your inbox at http://www.lauradrakebooks.com/write-stuff-video-podcasts-for-writers/
Laura Drake is a New York published author of Women’s Fiction and Romance.
Her romance series, Sweet on a Cowboy, is set in the world of professional bull riding. Her debut, The Sweet Spot, won the 2014 Romance Writers of America® RITA® award. She also published a four-book small town romance series with Harlequin’s Superomance line. Her latest women’s fiction released January 2016.
Laura is a city girl who never grew out of her tomboy ways, or a serious cowboy crush. In 2014, Laura realized a lifelong dream of becoming a Texan and is currently working on her accent. She gave up the corporate CFO gig to write full time. She’s a wife, grandmother, and motorcycle chick in the remaining waking hours. Connect with Laura on Twitter, Facebook, or on Writers in the Storm.
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