Recovering from out-patient surgery this week, so I’m running a little behind. (If you think that’s a pun, were you in the O.R. and I didn’t know it????)
But seriously…the next 8 or so segments are going to be on problems with characters and characterization, specifically:
- Lack of conflict between characters;
- Weak/vague characterization;
- Lack of character development;
- “Telling” about characters, rather than showing;
- Contrived, unrealistic, or out-of-character behavior;
- Unclear character goals;
- Unclear or insufficient obstacles to those goals; and
- Excessive or inappropriate use of dialect to show character.
Before we get started, though, I want to point you to another excellent blog post, titled The Night the Lights Went Out in Texas, by Keith Cronin, on Writer Unboxed. This paragraph sums up so much about the enterprise of story-telling, whether in fiction or non-fiction:
But it really comes down to the people. (I look at the sentence I just typed, and realize I instinctively chose the right word with “people.” It’s hard for me to even refer to them as mere “characters” – that’s how real they’ve become to me.)
That says it, doesn’t it? It’s the fundamental question you’ll be asking about the pieces you read as a reviewer: are the characters in this piece people to me, or just characters? The answer will tell you, and the author, a lot about whether or not the piece is succeeding.
And remember, for each of these next sections, we’ll be asking these four key questions:
- Did the problem happen?
- Where did it happen?
- What was the exact nature of the problem?
- What can the author do to fix it?
‘Til next time, then.
And by the way, Happy Holidays, whichever ones you celebrate.