Friday, September 24, 2010

How To Write Compelling Characters

Oh dear! I've signed up for something and it appears I'm way out of my league.

Monday I discovered Elana Johnson's blog. It was a fabulous little discovery that lead to many other little discoveries that has turned into quite the mother lode of writerly information. Ms. Johnson had issued a writing challenge for this Friday (that would be today!) to blog about writing compelling characters.

Since I've made a goal to write for at least 2 hours a day, and since I thought it would be great to have something to write about, and to read other blogs that had written about the same thing. I signed up. Then I forgot.

But then I remembered, and as I read the posts of the other bloggers participating in the challenge, I realize (gulp) that I am sure I don't know what I'm talking about. My fiction writing is in it's infancy. More than that, it's in its embryo stage. A stage where I look at what I've written, edit, edit again, order style manuals from Amazon Marketplace and edit again, and then decide that what I have, in the words of Steve Martin, is pure drivel.

So here I am, feeling a bit silly as I'm not a published writer, or even a writer with a finished manuscript, (at least not one that I'm not considering heaving into the mucky duck pond down the path). Still, I'm going to give it a shot.

One character I happen to love is DJ Schenck from the young adult series, Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. DJ is flawed. She's got this shyness that is at times, paralyzing. She's not to hot with the communication skills either. It seems she will do anything to avoid the spotlight.

What makes her so compelling is that DJ is forced to face these flaws because she's a gifted athlete and hard worker who is respected and admired by just about everyone who knows her. Not a great way to stay out of the spotlight.

Throughout the series, I found myself aching for, shouting at, sympathizing with, and cheering for DJ all because of this conflict between her flaws and her strengths.

When a character can get me to be that emotionally invested, that's when I'm compelled.


Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Well said...If I'm emotionally invested in the mc I keep reading,. If not I put the book down. If I finish the book and felt strongly about the mc...I will seek out that author and buy more of his/her books. :)

enoll said...

I am feeling the same way about writing. I have been revising and revising instead of moving forward. We really need to talk it sounds like we are in the same place.

Afton said...

Are you in a critique group Erin?

stickynotestories said...

I think you wrote an excellent post despite all your misgivings! That great struggle between what someone wants and what everyone else wants for them is very compelling for readers. Does the MC do what everyone else wants? Or do they go their own way? Love it :)

Nicole Zoltack said...

As writers, we want nothing more than for our readers to be emotionally invested in our characters.

enoll said...

No I have not been brave enough to look into that.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I'm not familiar with that series, but DJ sounds like an interesting character!

Good luck with your writing.

Heather Spiva said...

FINALLY getting around to this!
Good job! Loved it. Well said.