Monday, June 20, 1994

Am I a character or what?

Deborah wrote:
>I'm writing a fictional piece based on real life occurrences (not,
>admittedly, the most original idea) and the main character is pretty
>much me.

I must ask, why?? Is it important to the story that you portray
yourself as a character?? What is the importance of the 'you' character
in the story? Are you a minor or major character? Are you sure it is
even necessary to define yourself as a character, but rather think of
the character as someone like yourself.

>I'm trying hard to give her as much depth and three dimensionality as
>the other characters in the novel, but I'm so heavily identified with
>her that I'm having a hard time seeing her objectively.

What is the story telling you about this character? Fiction allows
us to 'make believe' and express ourselves in ways we would not normally
do. A character who is like yourself has to express themselves in a voice
independent of the narrator or author. A point of view of this character
may be indulgence in sexuality or heroism. Yet, if you as an individual
have limited exposure to a wide variety of emotions and experiences then
your 'self' character may seem diminished somewhat. On the other hand,
it may only seem that you can't put yourself in the place of a fictional
character and limited yourself unnecessarily.

A trick that may help is called inflection. Try and imagine the
character as someone else with the same persona as you. This trick or
technique is similar to 'getting into character' but allows you to be
someone you're not. By acting as though the character is really just
someone else, you can add qualities that are inherent to you exclusively.

>Overall, I think she works as a character in that she seems
>believable, has some flaws and seems pretty balanced. One
>person, though has suggested that she seems *too* sympathetic
>a character.

Sympathetic characters are best left to the reader's imagination
and lightly covered by prose. A character whose sympathies we share are
notable, and yet too much sympathy can lead to empathy toward the
person you are writing through.

A woman of the 90's should be well defined by social stigma's and
characterized so that she is believable. Do not stereotype women
because that can also appear as too demeaning.

>Can a character be too sympathetic? How can I get more distance from
>her? Suggestions appreciated.

Read the first two parts and take an aspirin. Then examine the
purpose for this individual and start from there. Finish with a good
sense of her purpose to the over all story.

J.L. Campbell -- Oh look, it's a girl!

Originally posted Jun 20 1994, 11:24 pm

Saturday, June 11, 1994

Suspense in writing

Suspense is often an elusive passage to writing a complete scene
in a story. Continuity, the element of suspense that is overlooked in
writing can be difficult to grasp. At best, suspense is a continuous
series of choppy attempts to scare or keep the reader guessing.

Yet, writing a suspenseful story can be easily accomplished if at
each scene the writer remembers to begin slowly and build the suspense
into a climax that builds onto the next scene. The introductory line
in a scene is the first element and each subsequent paragraph builds
upon the next until the scene is completed.

Writers such as Stephen King are masters at building suspense in
a story. The book _The Shining_ is an example of building suspense so
the reader is terrified to read further, but finds that they must know
what happens next. The formula to writing suspense is to begin with an
incomplete description of what is wrong (i.e. the problem) and increase
the problematic scenario until the situation is reversed and now the
protagonist is confronted with a limited number of choices.

In _The Shining_, King built the suspense into a crescendo of
fear and suspicion between the husband and wife. The climax was an
accumulation of all the suspense in which King brought the protagonist
into a situation where she had to make a choice. Each scene began
with an incomplete and somewhat vague problem (i.e. the death of the
previous caretaker) and how it affected the characters attitudes
(note: attitudes are very, very important in suspense) as each scene

The structure King took with _The Shining_ is indicative of how
to write a completed work of suspense. A chapter in King's book reads
like a textbook on writing suspense. Study the techniques he used in
most of his manuscripts and a pattern will slowly develop. Other
writer's have also mastered the art of suspense using various other
techniques, such as; Clive Barker, Thomas Harris, etc. Some may
believe King and the others are Horror genre writers, but don't
forget that the essence of Horror is suspense.

Please scare me, but slowly is the adage to remember.

J.L. Campbell -- The bottom of the well is the top of the earth.

Originally posted Jun 11 1994, 7:01 am