1.28.2008

Characterization

They've compiled a list of interesting interviews culled from the Paris Review over at Vulpes Libris. Take a look at this nugget from Stephen King:

Stephen King is even more direct. When not rebutting critics who disapprove of his use of brand names in fiction (“It’s a Pepsi, OK? It’s not a soda. It’s a Pepsi. It’s a specific thing. Say what you mean. Say what you see”), he speaks directly about every writer’s aim: “I’ve always thought that the sort of book that I do – and I’ve got enough ego to think that every novelist should do this – should be a kind of personal assault. It ought to be somebody lunging right across the table and grabbing you and messing you up.” King tells several amusing stories about the “research” he has performed to create authenticity in even his most nightmarish thrillers. In one case, his wife discovered him tying his son to his bed (“I think it was Joe because he’s the more limber of the two boys”), only to be told that King was hoping to discover whether a person would have to be double-jointed to free himself.

I think it's excellent advice. The writing needs to get underneath the reader's skin. And how do you get there? It's the people at the center of the story we need to focus on. It's their motivations for their behaviours, their idiosyncrasies and their morals. We need to feel their pain and share in their victories.

Obvious, right? Well, after thinking on it and working on the draft of my ranching novel, I think I need to spend less time with the landscape and more time with polishing the characters and the conflict.

Happy trails...

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