Friday, September 24, 2010

Compel Me, Dark Faerie!

Before I forget, there's an Operation Awesome interview with WriteOnCon's Jen Stayrook today! 


Now onto today's blogfest:
Elana Johnson, along with Jennifer Daiker and Alex Cavanaugh, has created The Great Blogging Experiment, explained in detail here.


Basically, on September 24th, a whole slew of writer/bloggers will write about Writing Compelling Characters


Fairy wren...no kidding


I'll be using PARANORMALCY's favorite scary faerie, Reth, as my example. 


Kiersten White created a whole cast of compelling characters, but Reth stood out to me as particularly compelling. (BY THE WAY, Congratulations to Kiersten White on debuting at #7 on the New York Times Bestsellers List in the first week!! That is EPIC!)


As I read this book for the first time, I found that if Reth was on stage, I couldn't even put my book down to go to the bathroom! I just knew something incredible/freaky/twisted was going to happen before he vanished again. 


How did she do that?


Here are some thoughts:



  • She limited his appearances: Reth only shows up when it matters. There's no idle chit chat with him. She doesn't show him going to the bathroom (if faeries even do that sort of thing).
  • She showed other people's responses to him: We see the gestures of fear, hear the interior monologue of the MC whenever he's around--and after he leaves. Because we know how Reth makes her feel, we know how he ought to make us feel. 
  • She made him round: We all remember from school the difference between a round character and a flat character. Flat is like Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter. She has no character arc, learns no lesson, makes no great change. She is who she is, and that's an evil pink dictator. Round, like Reth, is a character who is both good and bad, who has depth, who may change at any moment, or whom we are just now getting to know. Through the whole book, I think I know what kind of faerie Reth is, and then Wablammy! My perception of him changes with one well-placed revelation.
  • She gave him a connection to the main character:  There's a reason I picked a side character for this little analysis. Main characters are almost always well-developed. We spend the most time with them, creating their back stories, giving them a favorite color, favorite TV show, favorite pet peeve. Reth is not the main character in Paranormalcy, but you get the feeling at times that it's his story, too. Kiersten accomplishes that feeling by giving him a very strong connection to the main character. He isn't just a possessive faerie, as he first seems. He's much more to Evie. Even before any grand revelations, we can feel that connection and it makes him important--compelling. 
So that's what I think makes a character compelling. 

What does it for you?

26 comments:

  1. That it's, I'm picking up Paranormalcy next time I head to the bookstore. I keep hearing wonderful things about it, but this is the first time someone had expanded upon a supporting character's role. It's good to know that the other players in the book are as well-developed as the main character seems to be.

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  2. Yay! Another Paranormalcy convert. ;) It's great writing and a quick read. You'll enjoy it. I can almost guarantee...almost.

    Thank you for stopping by, Kelly!

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  3. I like the imagery of "round." I think this is a good way to sum up how to make a character readable. Unputdownable.

    And I loved PARANORMALCY.

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  4. I'm reading Paranormalcy right now. Consequently, I don't like Reth at all. ;)

    Such an interesting case study. I love how you analyzed it. And I'm glad to have found your adorable orange blog (I love orange. It's the underrated color.). Consider me a new follower.

    ~Tere

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  5. This post is fantastic - and I love that you used Reth to do it!! The fact that she limited his appearances is something I hadn't given much thought - so insightful! :-)

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  6. I like that you used a secondary character to drive home the need for compelling characters. Thanks to this, I'm now compelled to read the book!

    Cheers!
    Jen

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  7. Great post. Reth creeped me out too. Every time he was in a scene I was on high alert! I just knew he would do something naughty!

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  8. Great post....WTG, Kiersten. I had no idea it made the NYSL!

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  9. I like your approach in analyzing a side character. I agree it's important to show how other characters respond to the character in question. Limiting appearances can also be a useful technique.

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  10. Great take on writing compelling characters. I love your analysis of a side character in a book to show why he is so compelling. I think if writers want to write compelling characters, looking at characters in books who are compelling, and analysing why, is a great place to start.

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  11. I like characters who change and grow.
    Glad Reth wasn't literally round!

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  12. You, my dear, are fantastic! Not only did I love the idea of "round" in describing a dimensional character, but now I'm looking at the clock and thinking, "Do I time to run and buy Paranormalcy?"

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  13. Reth is definitely my favorite character in Paranormalcy. He was amazing and had me totally charmed.

    I think it's great that you related him to all the things we should be thinking about when writing compelling characters.

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  14. Love the blog and Paranormalcy too (especially Reth)!

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  15. I like the idea of limiting a character's appearances. That's one I haven't heard before. Thanks!

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  16. I haven't read this series, but I will now. That's for the comparison and I so agree about Delores.
    Nancy
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

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  17. Such a great example to use! Great post

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  18. What a great example to use. I like the idea of round characters! Well said!

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  19. Hi, I'm dropping in from the blog fest. Nice to meet you! You have a very interesting blog -- love the idea of round characters -- and am happy to follow you.

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  20. I can't wait to read Paranormalcy, I've heard so many great things about it.

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  21. Awesome post, Katrina. I love how you've linked Paranormalcy here. :)

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  22. *haha I hope you linked to Kirsten's she'd love this.
    I agree characters have got to be more than the vehicle or the twisty looking glass. I need them active and believable.

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  23. Okay, well, Reth compelled me to be freaked out. But you are right, there's a lot more to him. And Kiersten rocks!

    Great post!

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  24. This is such a great post. When I read "compelling characters," my mind immediately jump to main characters -- but you're absolutely right that sometimes it's more difficult to make the side characters compelling. And this post has some great pointers.

    *needs to read PARANORMALCY*

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  25. I am now really thinking about my minor characters, why are they in the story... mmm great ideas. I especially like the "round" character. Now I have to read PARANORMALCY!

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  26. I like the way you described compelling characters as "round". Nice post!

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