Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Chain: One of a kind

Archetype (Carolyn Kaufman) started the QueryTracker.net blog chain round with these questions:

How do you keep from telling the same story over and over? What are your tips and tricks for finding fresh ideas and adding new twists to your work?

In a nutshell: Unique characters.

I think either Carolyn or Mary or Kate mentioned something about opening yourself up to new experiences. That's a wonderful point.

Writers need to become experts at playing devil's advocate; it helps us step outside our comfort zone and create believable heroes and villains. It helps us establish fresh, believable characters.

I believe characters with unique personalities are the key to making each story fresh.

Awhile back, I read Michael Snyder's debut novel "My Name is Russell Fink." It was hilarious.

Talk about character quirks!

The main character was plagued with survivor's guilt, and he was a hypochondriac who thought he was dying of cancer. One of his friends was a scientist who was always cold and wore oven mitts on his hands. The MC's girlfriend was a loon. His dog had bladder control problems.

If Snyder had simply given his characters these quirks, they probably would have been a nuisance for readers to trudge through. Each of these flaws, however, played an integral part in how the story moved, and they made the story unique.

I rarely map a story out before I start writing. I have a rough idea of my opening, two plot points and climax, but I usually let the characters and their flaws take it from there.

When you strip Long Road down to its basic theme, it's nothing special. But Heather's character flaws -- especially her refusal to believe in something beyond life as we know it -- make the story different from other stories out there.

Now, head over the Christine's place and read her response.


Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Unique characters are so important - I totally agree! I also like your point that character quirks can't just be there to make the characters different, but need to have some kind of connection to the story.

Great post!

ElanaJ said...

This is it! This is how you make each story unique! Great post. If only I could figure out how to make each one of them different enough. Thanks!

Rosslyn said...

Yes, these are great points! Thanks, Kat.

Anonymous said...

WOW - You and I are are so alike...wait 'til you read my post tomorrow!!! And I totally agree...unique characters really make a huge difference!

Sandra said...

Great examples of unique characters! I agree that characters make a story unique.

Carolyn Kaufman said...

Hmm, interesting points. I'm so glad I asked these questions, I am learnin' stuff! Your talk of characters reminds me of Terry Bisson's work. (Love Terry Bisson.)

Annie Louden said...

I love what you said about how writers need to be experts at playing devil's advocate. I bet if I keep that in mind while I'm writing, my characters will stand up for themselves and become unique.