Posted by dizzytangerine
Protagonists, antagonists, supporting characters… Where do they come from? Our heads of course. We can shape them, manipulate them any old way we choose. And by adding bits here and there we eventually leave our readers with an impression of the person we’ve created. If it’s our protagonist, we usually want our readers to feel empathetic towards him or her so maybe we make them vulnerable. If it’s the antagonist, we often imbue this character with traits that conflict with the protagonist thus creating tension.
We can get lots of mileage from physical attributes as well. Take Captain Hook for instance. He was mean and menacing and what could be scarier for a child than a villain with a silver, pointed hook for a hand. Or how about Fantine in Les Miserables? We see her beauty fade as she first sells her hair, her teeth and then her body.
Right now I’m creating characters for my next novel. Piecing together parts from people I know or characters from movies, books and television. Kind of like a quilt of granny squares. The eyes for one of my main characters, a 13-year-old Jewish girl, I got from from the cover of a book. It’s pinned to my bulletin board. Her friend looks a lot like Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver – tough and lanky. And the Jewish grandmother is soft and round with an ample bosom just like a dear friend I once knew.
And if we’re really good at it, creating a character, sometimes that fictional being takes on a life of his or her own. One such character for me is Francie Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Francie sang to me. I loved her spunk, pluck and tenacity. I found myself wishing that I had known her for we’d surely have been best friends.
So what characters have left a lasting impression on you?
Write on everyone!
Posted by dizzytangerine
Writing by nature is a solitary endeavor. Ask any successful author and they will tell you that getting to the point of publication took countless hours of alone-time in front of a screen. Things can get pretty quiet; just you, a blank piece of paper and the ticking clock. And that’s one of the reasons some writers never become authors. It’s just too lonely out there.
That’s why we need to reach out to others like us and attending a conference is a great step. I just got back from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators annual conference in New York City. I was surrounded by people just like me! Writers who are almost authors. Artists who are almost illustrators. And of course those who have already found success.
While I didn’t come away with a lot of new tools for my writing box, I did leave with a renewed conviction that this is what I was meant to do. What I got out of the experience was validation that I am on the right track and that if I keep plugging away, success will follow. I just need to be patient. And I know we read this type of advice all the time. But when you pay good money for the advice, somehow it matters a little more. You are invested, literally.
In the Grand Hyatt’s ballroom on Sunday, I stood three feet away from Arthur A. Levine (publisher of the Harry Potter series) and was tongue-tied. This year I had nothing to offer. But next year? If he’s there, I’m going to give him the best break-out middle grade chapter book pitch he’s ever heard!
Now that’s the attitude!
Write on everybody.