Author Q & A Part 3

Hey kids! A little later than usual, but here it is.

We’re here with the last installment of our author Q&A. You know our authors, so let’s get started.

9. What would you say is the key(or keys) to creating an interesting character of depth that truly connects with the audience?

Kat: Really getting into the character’s head and trying to see the world from their point of view. Thinking about how they would react–not trying to match their reactions to the plot you have created. Let them react the way they would react regardless of your plans.

Sandra: The character needs to be bigger than life yet real and flawed. Give him/her goals, but keep the goals just out of reach. And show us how the character feels when challenged. Don’t be afraid to be hard on him/her.

Beverly: WEOFR! Let me explain.

Show the reader right away, in your opening sentence or paragraph, what the character Wants. That’s our W. Then add the other letters . . . I will illustrate with an example.

Let’s use two of my own interests, bird watching and photography. We’ll call the main character, Maisie. Raised by a biologist and a zookeeper, Maisie wants to become the world’s foremost expert on something—anything! that will impress her parents. But so far all she has been doing is taking mediocre pictures. That is her WANT: to please her parents.

Now add Empathy. Something that makes us really care about Maisie. Let’s say that one day, Maisie is taking pictures out her window (maybe she’s obsessed with Rear Window, a bonus character trait), and realizes a nest of baby birds has been abandoned by their mother. Ru-roh! Now she must raise them, or she would be a terrible zookeeper’s daughter. And we wouldn’t like her.

For an Obstacle to Maisie’s goal, we will say that her roommate, a Siamese cat named Dexter, hates birds of any sort, or relishes them if you get my drift. (Sadly, Dexter probably ate the parents of the orphans.)

But! To add humanity, we need to add a Flaw that humanizes Maisie. Let’s say she has ornithophobia-the fear of birds and explain how she became that way. When Maisie had to sleep in her parents’ laboratory while they ran complicated experiments, the bird noises gave her nightmares. And being left alone added to her feeling abandoned, and that she must do something to gain their attention and approval. Armchair psychology may or may not be another of my obsessions hobbies.

99% of readers expect a satisfying Resolution. (Also called the character arc, but that makes an odd acronym.) So in our bird story, Maisie is able to raise the babies to fledge, and by watching her overcome her fears to care for them, Dexter is converted from a bird hater to an old softy who begins guarding the backyard from other not-so-nice felines. Maisie no longer cares about earning her parents’ approval, because in the end she has succeeded in achieving something she never knew was holding her back in the first place. We have a satisfying conclusion to her inner conflict. The original Want morphed into an even more satisfying moment of personal growth for Maisie.

To sweeten the deal (I like to blend a couple of endings to cover all possible Hallmark moment possibilities), Maisie later finds out that by training a basic instinct out of a cat, she has landed an article in a scientific journal, and her parents are at last proud of her. *Group hug.* And this ties up all our threads.

This has been a round about way to say, to give your MC depth, tell me, the reader, what it is they want, put them in a situation that seems hopeless especially in light of their want and weakness. Face them up to something that requires them to overcome an obstacle to make it out “alive.” Adding quirky animals helps as well. Who can resist a bucket of kittens, or a nest of baby birds?

Deborah: (Unfortunately, I added some questions at the last minute, and I don’t think Deborah saw them. So, she didn’t answer the last two. My fault =( -M.R. Anglin)

11. When having trouble thinking through a plot/writing ‘that one character’ or scene, how do you kick yourself into gear and write ahead?

Kat: My first answer is, see my answer to question number 3. My second is, pick a new scene to work on. Sometimes writing a scene farther along in the story will give you insight into what needs to happen in the scene you are stuck on.

Sandra: I don’t know that I do write ahead. Usually I take a long walk or sleep on it after a heartfelt prayer and the answer just seems to pop up. Then I go on.

Beverly A long walk, retail therapy, a shower, just getting away from the keyboard often unclogs the dam. I also read about writing or pick up a book in a similar style, and that helps get my brain revved. For my current nonfiction project, I’m reading about how the brain works, and it really is an organic, programmable tool that we assume cannot be affected, but science proves otherwise. (And is feeding my obsession interest in psychology.)

Also, knowing where you are going in a plot helps. Try skipping to a later scene and work backward. If I am hopelessly stuck, I play around with different resolves, different endings. I may introduce a new character or give an old one a new challenge. Playing “what ifs” with outrageous ideas adds zing and sometimes works to lift a sagging middle or detour a plot that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Sometimes I wonder WWSKD and that helps… What Would Stephen King Do? Come to think of it, I bet that jerk genius never gets stuck.

And always, remember the joy!

And that’s it. Let’s show love to the four authors who took time out of their schedules to answer our questions. Round of applause, people!

-M.R. Anglin

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