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Caring about characters.

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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Thu October 30th, 2008, 12:04 pm

To make readers care about a character, good or bad, you the writer have to care about them too and show this by the characters thoughts, actions and feelings, and to a lesser extent by what happens to them by the hands of fate or the deeds of others. You have to climb inside that character and either become them or empathise so strongly that you know exactly what makes them tick. And then you have to show this to your reader. You are being an actor with words, and those words should deliver an oscar winning performance every time.
Simple :p :D :D!!!!!
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

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Richard
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confrontation is the best praise

Post by Richard » Tue February 24th, 2009, 6:40 pm

I found it very interesting how my draft readers liked certain characters. I didn't set out to make any of them likeable, but I did pay a lot of attention to giving each one a distinct personality and endearing flaws. Then I wrote by setting up the plot and thinking about what the characters would do and say in each situation. More often it was the characters who decided what course the plot should take, and not the other way around. I suppose that made them easy to relate to and therefore like, since they are all clearly quite human and it made the story focus on them rather than on grand historical events.

My main reason for commenting this thread is an email I got from a draft reader, which I quote here in part:

"Something I don't usually get to do is confront the author, this is the problem with giving books to friends to read. You are going to kill [ ], aren't you? He's too [descriptive stuff that would be a spoiler] to survive. Of course, you shouldn't answer that, but everytime a character like this shows up in book or movie, they are inevitably killed off."

Actually, that guy I didn't kill... I hope she wasn't disappointed. Anyway, when I got that I felt great. To have a reader "confront" me mid-book about a character I didn't even kill is one of the best reactions I could have hoped for.

Of course I did kill lots of other people, and I still get pangs of remorse thinking about one of them. He was a minor character, but he didn't deserve to die and his death was kind of random. I think I killed him in part because I liked him and I needed to be able to do it and get over it.
How did an 800-year-old headless corpse transform Venice from a backwater
into the greatest sea-empire of the early Middle Ages? Find out at,
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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Tue February 24th, 2009, 9:05 pm

Richard, it is almost inevitable to avoid killing off characters we like at least once in a while. Just remember that is a realistic plot development. Your book sounds really interesting. And I like the calendar with the number of days left 'til St. Mark's Day.

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Richard
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Post by Richard » Wed February 25th, 2009, 2:35 pm

Oh, I have no problem in general with charachters dying. I made a list at some point of all the casualties in the novel. Just to give a quick statistic, thirteen people leave Venice on the San Nicola in November 827, and eight return. Of those survivors two are wounded, one seriously and permanently.

But the one that I regret killing died mostly because he'd served his purpose, I needed one more casualty in a fight, and I didn't have anything left for him to say or do! Many others died to advance the story, but he died from his creator's benign neglect.
How did an 800-year-old headless corpse transform Venice from a backwater
into the greatest sea-empire of the early Middle Ages? Find out at,
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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Thu February 26th, 2009, 2:14 am

Well I'll be killing off a perfectly wonderful character because I can't come up with a future for her. I don't know whether that amounts to neglect, laziness, or depraved indifference. Of course this whole thing started at the end and she was added later. It is very sad though. And I do really like her. Plus I feel so bad for her family!

Sadly with the stuff I have going on in this story, some innocent people have to make their exit, so to speak.

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boswellbaxter
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Post by boswellbaxter » Thu February 26th, 2009, 2:29 am

One of my main characters met his end the other night. Historically, I had no choice, but I sorely miss him.
Susan Higginbotham
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juleswatson
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Post by juleswatson » Thu February 26th, 2009, 9:01 am

It surely is like playing god. I remember KNOWING I had to kill off one lovely character, and I just kept avoiding it. I kept wailing to my husband, "But do I have to?" and he kept sternly saying, "Yes. Now get to it!" I guess if we care so much we grieve, it means our characters are that real to us. And as EC said, that's the way that they will at least feel real to your readers. The readers may not like them, but hopefully they will be engaged with them in some way. What fun! It seems mean, but when readers say I made them sob uncontrollably, I just go "Great!" and have a big grin on my face. :D
Author of Celtic historical fantasy
New book "THE RAVEN QUEEN" out Feb 22 2011: The story of Maeve, the famous warrior queen of Irish mythology.
Out now, "THE SWAN MAIDEN", the ancient tale of Deirdre, the Irish 'Helen of Troy'
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Libby
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Post by Libby » Thu February 26th, 2009, 9:21 pm

I think writers are all control freaks at heart. We can't control real people but we can exactly what we like with fictional characters, and we enjoy the power.

But as Boswell Baxter points out, when you're writing something based on historical fact you sometimes have to kill those you would rather not. :(
By Loyalty Bound - the story of the mistress of Richard III.

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Richard
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Post by Richard » Fri February 27th, 2009, 1:23 pm

Right- or spare the ones you'd rather slay. I refer to this phenomenon as a "history shield", i.e. : "I can't kill the Duke because he's mentioned in the chronicle of so-and-so as appearing at Tours, five years later- he has a history shield!"
How did an 800-year-old headless corpse transform Venice from a backwater
into the greatest sea-empire of the early Middle Ages? Find out at,
Image

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Richard
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Post by Richard » Fri February 27th, 2009, 1:25 pm

And regarding the power of the author - I get no kick from controlling characters, made up or otherwise. I get my kicks from what I can do to the emotions of a reader, which of course ultimately has to do with making them care about the characters and then controlling those characters. Making a bad guy sympathetic or even redeeming him, giving a good guy a flaw that makes the reader guilty for liking him, and of course slaying someone that everyone will miss... that's the power.
How did an 800-year-old headless corpse transform Venice from a backwater
into the greatest sea-empire of the early Middle Ages? Find out at,
Image

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