Character Driven Stories

Posted by texmexexpress on March 21, 2014 at 2:30 PM

What I say may not be necessarily profound, insightful, or thought provoking, but I believe it bears to be addressed nonetheless. Oh, and it's my blog, so I can say what I want.

I've always been exceedingly influenced by stories whose characters dynamically drive the plot rather than a story shadowing its characters. See most "blockbuster" movies pushed by CGI—they are the suck. Developing a character can be a labor of love, but it also can drive your reader into boredom. Balance is the key that gives life to your story. How much detail is too much? I guess that all depends on your reader, and those pesky subjective editors we all love or loath. Whether you believe it or not, most authors can be just as pretentious as editors and publishers. Everyone has their own philosophy on the subject and at the end of the day they will stand by those principles until they are forced to change by their own critics. We're all hypocrites.

So, my thoughts on this subject is nothing more than that. It's just an opinion, and I'm sure over time it too will change. I've been in the entertainment business long enough to know that you can't please everyone—that's why I find it much easier to just piss em all off. My skin is callused from it.

While detailed description of a story can open up a colorful and physical world in the mind, it can also slow the prose, which may often bury your reader away from the plot. Characters are no different. We often hope to avoid that cringing disappointment during those first two chapters of a book when the main characters are normally introduced. I want to know what my characters look like in the those chapters, but I don't necessarily need to know every minute detail about their philosophical bent. That may lead to predictability, and a book being quickly shelved. I've been guilty of it in my stories. I look at it this way: Character development should breath like a fine wine. Let the aroma sift awhile before a little is gently poured into a glass and slowly enjoyed, because by the second glass that wine sipping has turned into a mouth gulping indulging frenzy of delightful euphoria.

Of course then you have to look at the other end of the spectrum. Less descriptive characteristics, traits, attitude, or personality can leave your character unadorned and less appealing. Ordinary writing creates ordinary characters, which leads to ordinary stories. Details are fine if they are appropriately positioned in the story without giving away everything. I believe readers should be given a little mystery, not just behind the story itself, but within the characters as well. While their personality or attitude can quickly change the tone of the scene, it's their intent that draws me further into the story. And hopefully, as the book or story progresses, I will be amusingly pleased in the end by how the characters have changed and matured.

I like to see the characters move the story as the plot gradually unfolds, rather than disclose the plot completely before the characters are fully developed. I'm a delayed gratification kind of guy. I know it's not for everyone, but it's what I like. Let me say that again, it's what I like. I'm not an expert in writing nor do I pretend to be, and I assure you most of your writer friends aren't either. If they were, they wouldn't have editors. We never stop learning as we go. That's what makes life exciting and pleasantly tolerable—well, that and not being dead. So let's not pretend that we always know what we are talking about. Whether we believe it or not, most of us readers and writers alike are book snobs. That's not such a bad thing either. Being particular is what makes our craft better.


Categories: Writing

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