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"As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move...similes arise, the paper is covered. Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle."~Honore de Balzac

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Characters: Flat or Round?

Characters can make or break your novel. Give us a great character who isn't stereotypical or simplistic, one with conflicting traits, someone complex and interesting, and you'll hook your reader and keep him hooked. In other words, give us round, not flat characters. Round characters are your stars. Flat characters are your sword carriers, the ones with only one line in a play, those who shift the props around. It's the round characters that give your story life. And your protagonist better be round.

Flat characters are okay in limited quantity. They have few traits, no real conflicts, and are more or less stereotypes. The cop who eats donuts, for instance, or the thief with the shifty eyes. Their purpose in story is to provide information and move the story forward.

A round characters is alive like you and me. As the author, you have to know your protagonist as well as you know yourself. You know how she talks, walks, eats lunch, flirts, dawdles, and you know what gets her angry or sentimental. In fact, you know exactly what song brings tears to her eyes and what sandwich gives her indigestion. You also know her secret desires and her flaws. Everyone has flaws and your protagonist better have some, too. Knowing your characters upside down and backwards will bring about something amazing - your very round, very complex character who is your protagonist will begin to direct your story. He or she will say, "Hey, I wouldn't do that. It isn't me." And the story takes a whole new direction. When you give birth to a round character, you create a partner in your writing process who will assist you in developing plot.

You'll hear that well-fleshed-out character's voice in your head, and as he or she helps you write your story, there's only one thing you must do...

Stay out of the way. There's nothing worse in a novel than author intrusion and readers can spot it every time.

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