So you have this character and you’re half in love with him. In fact, if you’re like me, the characters come to you first and you see them as whole people and you love them as friends.
You want to share your character with the world! You love him or her so everyone will also, right?
Right... except... except the world can’t see your character the way you do. That intimate feel you have for what makes them laugh and those cute dimples and all? Not there for anyone else.
The character is in your head, not theirs. To readers he’s a stranger. Many things that are cute, or sweet or funny from a friend are either incomprehensible or creepy from a stranger.
So, how do you introduce Mr. Or Ms. Fantastic?
You could, of course, just start the book with “this is my character, look how wonderful he is.” You could go on that way about what he eats for breakfast; the smell of his shampoo, how flowers and small children turn their faces to follow his progress; how entire cities come out and lie down in his path lest he hurt his foot on a stone.
Of course you could. You could also take up recreational fly fishing or perhaps basket weaving and leave the writing alone. Because trust me, that approach above? Every slush pile has hundreds and hundreds of those.
The sad thing is when you do that you sound exactly like a middle school kid with his or her first crush. And let’s face it, no one but your bestest friend, who had a crush on the same person, wanted to hear another word about it.
So... how do you bring your wonderful character to the reader in all his splendor? Plot, my dear, plot. Plot is what reveals your character. It’s more like bringing your middle school crush home and let him show your parents how smart he is and what good manners he has. If you can’t do that, then it doesn’t matter how wonderful you tell them he is. And PLEASE make sure you don’t do that – make sure your character isn’t acting like a complete idiot while you tell us (cunningly using the other characters, maybe) how wonderful he is. Show us he’s wonderful. Make him be wonderful.
Say your character is very generous. Start with him giving half of his cloak to a beggar. But please, for the love of heaven, don’t show us how gentle he is next and have him pet a puppy. Instead, make the whole character work to move the plot. Is your character generous? What is the typical defect of generous people? Well... they don’t keep enough to survive? They get taken in by confidence men? Use that. Have your character rolled. Have it move the plot.
To me plot without character and character without plot is the sound of one hand clapping. Maybe very zen but not very entertaining.
So... give me examples of where this works or doesn’t. Or give me examples of a book that’s only one or another and yet works.
The winner of last week’s contest for a fabulous t-shirt with the cover of Darkship Thieves is Lady Dawn! Please email me with your address