Okay, before you can go to the conventions and use your elevator pitch like we talked about last month, you have to write the story. This month we’re going to focus on the craft aspect of writing. Because it’s February, and for some reason this month bring about images of mostly naked babies holding bows. we’re going to focus on relationships. Don’t groan – we aren’t going to spend the entire month talking romance, although it will be a topic this month.
Think about the stories you love. What made you love it? Not the plot. Not even the special effects. It’s the characters and their journey that takes a story from like to love. Some of the all time most loved stories include Gone With The Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Charlotte’s Web, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Action adventure movies can be loved, but it seems to me that only happens when there’s something extraordinary about the character dynamics. Well loved stories, regardless of genre, all have one thing in common – characters that stay with us long after we close the book.
I’m going to use one of my favorite books – The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle – as an example of what I mean. Each of the characters, even the unicorn, is flawed. Schmendrick the Magician (and I didn’t have to look up how to spell his name even though my spelling is atrocious) can’t actually work magic. He’s the incompetent fool, the disappointment and the failure. He can’t touch the unicorn. He joins her quest to benefit himself, not because it’s the right thing to do. Yet, he still finds the strength to get up each morning and try to be a true magician. Molly Grue lives with bandits. She’s brash and a bit crude. Yet, her heart is pure enough to see a unicorn. King Haggard has everything, but can’t feel joy or love. The unicorn is immortal, but she doesn’t know love or regret. A misfired (or not) spell robs her of her immortality. Over the course of the story all four of these character (and Prince Lir) confront who they are. All are searching for something more than themselves. All but one changes.
Why is this one of my favorite books? Because of the depth and beauty of the characters and their interactions. Peter S. Beagle’s A Fine and Private Place is also on my most favored books list for the same reason. I wanted the good guys to win. I wanted the bad guy to get his comeuppance.
How did Peter Beagle and all those other writers create such memorable characters?
Well, that’s what we’re talking about this month.
This month we’ll look at creating a complete characters, the “good” bad guy, and believable character interactions. We’ll spend some time on Romance in deference to St. Valentine’s holiday. But also platonic relationships between the characters and conflict in general. Please check out posts over the month, and remember it’s not too late to get that box of chocolates.