Recommendation: Elements of Fiction: Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

Characters and ViewpointElements of Fiction Writing is a series of instructive books on the craft of writing, each written by a different author. Characters & Viewpoint is an installment by Orson Scott Card, and I found it to be a great educational read.

“A character is what he does, yes — but even more, a character is what he means to do.”

The book covers in great depth a range of topics, from inventing characters through to portraying them on the page. It looks at understanding what characters you need, how to develop their identity and history, the roles they should play in the story, and how to make it come alive. It also looks at the types of stories you may be telling, how that might affect which characters you choose to focus on, and the points of view you may want to use.

“Remember that of all these different ways of getting to know people — and therefore getting to know characters — the most powerful of them, the ones that make the strongest impression, are the first three: what the character does in the story, what his motives are, and what he has done in the past.”

If you’ve ready Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, then you will notice some overlap between the two books. However, the overlap is in the basic information on story construction, and this book dives much deeper into writing believable and engaging characters.

“the starting point, the most important factor of all, is whether they’re interesting and believable to you.”

I found this book to be clear and engaging, written in a style that made me feel I was sitting in a comfortable chair across from the man himself, listening as he talked about the topic. At the same time, it’s well structured, making the advice it provides easy to digest. This is important, as the pages are dense with techniques, hints, and tips.

“Self-chosen suffering for the sake of a greater good — sacrifice, in other words — is far more intense than pain alone.”

The bottom line? I knew I needed to work a little smarter (and harder) on creating deeper characters, which is why I turned to this book in particular. It delivered, giving me a new outlook on the process and (I hope) more believable and engaging characters in my stories.

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