Thursday, January 16, 2014

Be Careful What You Ask For

Was it only a few days ago that I had decried the lack of writing assignments on my plate? Silly me! I had forgotten about the LOTR Community Challenge, which has now come through, my Tolkien Weekly challenge is continuing to make me think with every post, and I now have my assignment for B2MeM 2014 with a firm deadline. I guess I'm busy after all - LOL.

Between all of the assignments listed above I have my novel. But my novel is in a "bothering her" state right now. This is a point in time when I think about what I've written to this point, the next direction I need the plot to go, and how my characters need to get there, and I'm bothered by how it will all work out. I'm taking the advice of a good on-line friend and will start rereading my novel from the beginning to see about getting things back on track and eliminating some side plot lines that are bogging things down.

Aearwen and I had a great talk about character development yesterday during our weekly schmooze. Although she thought that having a gripping plot with good writing would keep people interested in a book, and I didn't disagree with that, I also pointed out that how a character is written may well be the difference between success and failure. I've been reading through the works of some authors who write characters that jump off the page and grip me, and comparing them to works where I feel that the characters are dead and lifeless, even though the plot is good enough to keep me fighting through to the end of the book. So I must ask, "What makes a character live on the page?"

Character development is a central part of each creative writing course I've taken or audited over the years, and it is the core of most books. Some authors can sell their books simply based on their history with readers. I put Stephen King in that category. He's an accomplished writer, can draw out a good tale and makes sure to hit plot twists, unexpected movements, and strong characters. But he doesn't pull me in as much as other authors and I admit that I put down his latest, "Doctor Sleep," without coming anywhere close to finishing it. I'm not sure I'll pick it back up again.

Isn't he a wonderful character? What storyline could you devise to explain
his location and history? 

I want to read a book that draws me with both a great plot as well as a selection of really interesting characters whose welfare I care about. If one of those two elements is missing, I'll feel unfulfilled as I attempt to read the book. Often I will push my way through and read the book anyway, especially if it is by an author whose work I have enjoyed in the past. But if one or the other of these two aspects doesn't come through, the book falls flat and becomes something that I would sell for next to nothing at a garage (or rummage) sale. Having interesting characters that grip the reader is something to strive for in my own writing.

Have you read a book lately that gripped you and wouldn't let you go? Tell me about it in the comments and maybe I'll find a new author or plot to dive into.

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