Monday, May 21, 2007


Posted by Lisa

If you don't happen to read Therese Fowler's blog, you should. Not only is it entertaining (American Idol prophesizing, indeed!), it's also like an online writing seminar - a nearly daily dose of what works/what doesn't.

In Thursday's blog, Therese talked about some of her own quirks, and frankly, they're pretty darn quirky. I won't repeat them - you'll have to check out her blog for yourself. But she got me thinking. About writing. About characters. About what we love about our characters. About how we fall in love with them.

Writing 101: A reader must care about a character.

Otherwise, why bother?

You, a writer, are the first reader who will ever see your story. Do you care? Why? Let's see...Think of this as a writing exercise:

Take one character from something you are working on, and say one quirk you love about that character. (If you can't think of a quirk, think of a characteristic or gesture). The character from my writing that jumps to mind is Laura, a girl from a short story I wrote last year. I love that she hates pop-tarts. Hates their smell, their taste, their cardboard consistency.

Next, ask yourself why you love that quirk. I love that Laura hates pop-tarts because her best friend's mom makes them every morning. And, Laura hates this lazy woman for many reasons.

You see, I love that Laura will hate pop-tarts the rest of her life. I love Laura. I love my quirky character.

And I wonder, Therese, if any of your characters love chasing lobsters on the beach, or mix grape jelly with various meat products, because a lobster-chasing character who's got a thing for grape jelly, now that's a character I could fall in love with. She's quirky. She's human.


Therese Fowler said...

Lisa, despite seeing myself as pretty ordinary, I guess I am quirky in some ways!

If I'd made a longer list I would've added that one of my favorite after-school treats was a butter and sugar sandwich. Healthy, eh?

What you say about characterization is dead-on. Those quirks we invent are the things that humanize our characters and make them realistic.

Lisa Marnell said...

Butter and sugar sandwiches are the best - I eat them myself!

In working on my current project, I do find myself loving characters' quirks, which really seem to reflect deeper seated convictions and personal history.


Larramie said...

Therese is a character in her own right, a mighty fine one at that! ;o)

Melissa Amateis said...

I love quirky characters, and I think every single one of us has a quirk. I think the challenge is having a character with a quirk that is important to the story and her overall characterization.

Broady said...

Hello, I'm so glad to have stumbled across your blog! I love the perspective, and the great links/resources, as well.

I'm trying to find the discipline to take a more aggressive approach to my fiction writing, and it seems a writers' group would be a good avenue. Unfortunately, I haven't found any in my town that would be appropriate for my work (literary fiction). Do you know of any online groups that you could recommend?

Also, I thought I was the *only* person on the plant with a penchant for sugar & butter sandwiches. They were my grandmother's specialty.

Therese Fowler said...

Larramie, I have indeed been accused of being a "character"; oh, the stories my grandmother liked to tell about me!

The fact is, all of us are unique and interesting--and sometimes the most compelling truths are the quiet, hard-to-discover, motivating ones, the ones that make the best traits for characters in stories.

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