Saturday, March 2, 2013


I went to a writers workshop given by author Silas House at Berea College the other night. I have to admit, I've yet to read his books, but several are going on my to-read list.  He shared a lot of good information, and I am still trying to digest it all. Writing my thoughts and feelings on his topics and how it applies to my own writing might help me.

I've been thinking about characters. Something Silas emphasized during this workshop was creating a balance between physical attributes and personality.  It doesn't matter if the character has blue eyes and blond hair. The physical description needs to reveal the soul of the character. This is an area that needs improvement for me. My characterizations tend to focus on looks.  When I should be zooming in on one or two distinct details and letting the readers imagination fill in the rest. I know it's cliché to say eyes are the window to the soul, but I think eyes do reveal depth of the characters. I tend to gravitate towards eyes in my writing.

During his talk, Silas gave an example from his own work. The guy was a "throw away" character operating the Farris wheel. When he gave the minute detail of a dirty sucker stick in his mouth, the character exploded into life in my head.  I've seen that guy. One tiny detail, and I know exactly what he looks like.

Every character need a defining trait. Is she stingy, for example? Or selfless? Exploring the why of the defining trait helps develop the character.  Also, characters need "warts." Nobody's perfect. No human is without faults.  How do their faults and their traits interact to build an individual? As a writer, I think it is important for me to know theses things about my characters weather or not I directly reveal them to the audience.  Because the underlying structure subtlety supports the believability and helps readers relate.

Characters need secrets, too.  People don't reveal all of themselves to everyone.  The secret helps drive tension in the story.  This is a gem of writing advice.  I worried that my characters don't have secrets, and I discussed it with John this morning over breakfast.  We came to the conclusion that my protagonist does have a secret which she only shares with those closet to her, but keeps from the world at large. I need to take time to think about each of my characters and figure out what their secrets are.

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