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Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy…

Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint

by Nancy Kress

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This book is part of the "Write Great Fiction" series, where a whole volume tackles a certain issue in writing. This book starts by identifying character types and strengthening them so they seem like real people. Some of the best advice I gleaned from this section was that you have to put everything about the character on the page, without overstating or making it read like pure description. The hardest thing for me in writing is realizing that no one knows what I know. I wrote a short story once inspired by Raymond Carver. I loved it; I thought it was so obvious who this character was. When my workshop read it, they didn't get it. They didn't see the point of the story arc, because they didn't understand the character. I plucked this character from my mind, where I knew him completely, and plopped him into a story without sharing what I knew with the reader.
Writers need to have multiple personalities so you can look at everything with three sets of eyes: the writer, putting it on the page; the character, letting you know what to write; and the reader, who is coming across all of this from the outside and has no clue what you know in your mind.

Other chapters help you make sure your character is as flawed and complicated as a real human - that they want certain things even as they hate themselves for wanting them; that they have secret histories they might be ashamed of; that they're working for something worth fighting for, but not getting it easily. There are a few sections on emotion - how to convey it without flat-out saying it, what cliche scenes to avoid, not being overly sentimental.

Then came the best part (for me) - point of view. This begins by helping the writer understand which character should be telling the story, but then delves into what viewpoint would work best, and what to avoid when using certain points of view. I understand all points of view, but by default write in first person. It feels natural to me, it's what I like to read. In workshops, teachers always suggested to write in third person. I've tried it a few times and don't really prefer it. But these chapters were written in a way that shows you how scenes would play out differently depending on point of view.

Each chapter ends with a short recap, as well as four to eight exercises on the topic you just studied. It's a great hands-on approach to overcoming bumps in your writing, and I'm excited to read more in the series. ( )
  howifeelaboutbooks | Nov 4, 2015 |
Pretty clear book on its topic(s). ( )
  VincentDarlage | Jan 30, 2015 |
This book is aimed at writers, although I found it helpful for recognizing techniques and style in writing as well. Its focus is on characterization, developing characters, their actions and emotions, expressing feelings, and making it consistent. It looks at different genres and how characters can fit in, and it explores characterization and different narrator viewpoints.

Through it all, Nancy includes good examples and has exercises at the end of each chapter to help the reader explore what she has been explaining.

The book works very well for writers and writer want-to-bes, but readers will find a lot of value as well. ( )
  Nodosaurus | Aug 2, 2013 |
Decent wrap of of the more technical aspects of writing: 'what it says on the tin' pretty much. Some good exercises at the end of the chapters (really, the only reason I go for "how to write" books. ( )
  MarieAlt | Mar 31, 2013 |
Great handbook for anyone who loves to write. I've read many how-to-write books and many of them seems quite basic, repeating the same concepts from different perspectives, but I found this one to deal with more complicate and subtle issues on how to make rounder characters (how to make contradictory emotions believable, etc.)

I've never read any of Nancy Kress's novels (I provably should), but this is the second handbook that I've read from her (the first being Beginnins, Middles and Ends), and she seems to have great advice to offer. ( )
  kinsey_m | Sep 3, 2012 |
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To Jamie, Pat, and all the other authors of the future.
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Have you ever hunted for a book enthusiastically recommended by a friend ("You'll love it!"), bought it, read it . . . and been greatly disappointed?
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