Oct 10, 2015

How Writers Write Fiction Week 1: What I learned about Character

I'm doing this online course from the University of Iowa, and I though I'd share some of the stuff I learned this week.

Here are some the questions we had to answer about other people's work for the peer reviews, but I think they are a really useful way to think about your own characters, too, so I jotted them down for future reference:

Who is this character?We had to come up with five adjectives to describe the character and explain how we got there.
Where is character development strong?We looked for the parts where the writer shows rather than tells and the best telling details.
Where could this piece strengthen character development?Suggestions on this.
(All questions from Novoed.com)

I might add this to my Critters template for critiques. Hmm.

Christa Frasier did a teaching video about character, and introduced me to the concept of the particle self and the continuum self. The particle self means the person we are in a single moment, and the continuum self is the bigger picture, who we are as we move through our life (or our character arc:)). This encompasses the idea that everything we see and hear encompasses all our memories and associations, so an apple is never just an apple, it's every apple you've ever eaten and all the people and memories and feelings associated with it. And it's not the same at different points in our life. Our reactions will be different depending on if we're four or forty, if we're sad or happy, just had a baby or  if we are at a funeral. So the particle self is a snapshot of us at a particular moment of our timelines. This is why a character needs a past.

I find the idea fascinating, and I'll definitely be exploring it in my writing.

We also did writing exercises. The first ones had us write about an object as character, and then use it in a story. A fun exercise. I might share the results at some point, we'll see...

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