A surplus of writing advice floats about the internet. Even if you separate the good from the bad, you’ll still be flooded, drowning in opposing voices that support a variety of tactics, mindsets, and organizations. You’d think that good advice would be more unified, but legitimate methods have as much diversity as personality types.
I am currently working on my characters, thanks to the insights of my most recent beta readers (love you writing group!) and in response I’m absorbing as much as I can on the subject. Instead of browsing blogs for unfiltered advice from unknowns (like me haha), I dug into my pile of Writer’s Digest magazines. Their advice can be basic sometimes, but at least it has been vetted. Since I’ve subscribed to WD for many years, I have a huge stack of back issues on my shelf. I sifted through them and found articles that focus on characterization. Lo and behold, there were quite a lot. Characters are kind of important.
But even within WD, the advice varies a lot. Each writer has his or her background, style, and preferred approach. Stephen James wrote about power relationships in “Raise your Characters above the Status Quo” (July/August 2011 issue. I told you. I’ve been getting WD for a while now.) He writes detective fiction, which means that he creates hard boiled PDs. Of course power relationships are key to his characters but are they key to mine? David Corbett discusses action as essential for characterization in “Characters, Scene by Scene.” (January 2015 issue) Action is always an important way to expose character, but I still need to wrap my mind around character goals, backstory, psychology, change, etc.
With each article I round out my personal process. I note advice, jot it down, and tweak it, but many of the tips float away and I won’t bother to catch them. The nice part about having hard copies is that I know they’ll always be there. If I decide that what I retained was insufficient, I can easily reread them.
Once my notes are complete, my character profiles can come out for a brainstorm session. I’ve got to let the process get messy again and bring the elements together, like mixing a deck of cards and hoping that a magic trick happens. (That’s how magic works, right?) No matter how well my characters grow, I’ll still have a ton of work ahead of me. It’ll be application time. My current goals (see here) are a little stretching, but I’m always up for a challenge. My stubborn desire to improve is pretty much the only reason I’m still writing. I have one more week to plan and (hopefully!) get ahead. Wish me luck!