For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.
Today’s tip – Exquisite Characters
The point of all these negatives is this: the heart of a short story, its energy source, is not, or is no longer, the plot. As the editor of one literary quarterly expressed it for would-be contributors, what he responds to in a story above and beyond everything else is “exquisite characterization.” A story is about people before it is about anything else–about human beings, richly rendered in all their quirkiness and typicality, in all their pain and pleasure, weakness and strength, despair and hope.
I had a writing teacher confess that the biggest problem he had was that his characters, “never did what I want them to do.” Isn’t that the ultimate compliment to your own writing – that the characters you have created are so real and interesting that they insist on living out their own lives, no matter what you want them to do. They become real people, not puppets on a string dancing to some literary formula or hackneyed plot device.