SMIAH-Creating a Series Character

Why write a series character?
• Most readers who fall in love with a character will be more inclined to read more about them.
• Series characters can be given more time to change and grow.
• Readers are more likely to pick up a book with a familiar series character.
• More books in a series=more sales.
Who is your audience? What genre are you writing?
1. Create a Likeable Character.
• Make sure your character can carry the plot through several books.
• Make sure there is enough tension.
• Make sure your protagonist has enough room to grow.
• Don’t reuse the same plot problems for every book
• Pit your protagonist against increasingly more daunting odds
• this book isn’t a cupboard full of ingredients that you can pull out, measure, mix, and bake into good fictional characters. This book is a set of tools: literary crowbars, chisels, mallets, pliers, tongs, sieves, and drills. Use them to pry, chip, beat, wrench, yank, sift, or punch good characters out of the place where you already live: your memory, your imagination, your soul.
• The characters in your fiction are people. Human beings. Yes, I know you make them up. But readers want your characters to seem like real people. Whole and alive, believable and worth caring about. Readers want to get to know your characters as well as they know their own friends, their own family. As well as they know themselves.
• No—better than they know any living person. By the time they finish your story, readers want to know your characters better than any human being ever knows any other human being.
3. What makes a good fictional character?
There are 3 questions readers ask:
• Question One: SO WHAT?
• Question Two: OH YEAH?
• Question Three: HUH?
4. The Cliché Shelf
• When you’re outlining a character, chances are very good that when you think up his or her personality, hometown, place of worship, choice of clothing, or profession, the first answer that pops into your mind will be a cliché. It’s as if, without even looking up, you reach onto that cliché shelf and pull down the first thing that comes to hand. And if you aren’t paying attention, you’ll settle for it, and your story will be weaker and shallower because you made do with a cheap and easy answer.
5. Making Decisions: Naming a Character
• How much thought should you give to naming a character?
• Variety
• One name per character
• Examples
• Make these decisions before you write your series.
6. Viewpoint: Whose Voice Will the Reader Hear?
• First person: Singular: I go. Plural: We go.
• Second person: Singular: You go. Plural: You all go (Y’all go.)
• Third person: He goes, she goes. Plural: They go.
“Maybe this is an exaggeration, but I’ve been editing quite a few manuscripts lately, and I’ve found that I’m commenting on viewpoint problems more frequently than anything else.”
–William Bernhardt
7. The Power of Viewpoint
In many ways, film has the advantage over books. A description of a scene, mood, lighting, and tone can be shown in a single, second-long shot. In novels, that same scene would take several paragraphs to describe. Film has the advantage. However, books possess a quality that film cannot emulate, and will never be able to. Books can get into a character’s head and show us exactly what that person sees, feels, thinks, and imagines. There is no other form of storytelling that possesses this sort of power, and something film will never be able to recreate.
• Readers want to forget about the author and be immersed in the story. Readers will care more about your characters and what happens to them if you can get them inside the characters’ heads.
• You cannot reveal information your viewpoint character does not know. You may say, “She thought his smirk suggested he didn’t believe her,” but you cannot say, “He didn’t believe her” when you’re in her viewpoint, because she doesn’t know.
• Internal monologue is a good tool for keeping a reader inside a character’s viewpoint.
First Person Narrative
• If there is any point to using a first-person narrator, it is in order to experience everything through his perceptions, colored by his attitudes, driven by his motives.
• Watching from the outside, like a camera:
• “I turned on the water and got into the shower. It beat down on my head, streamed down my face, rivulets pouring down my body, cleansing me.”
• Told as a real person might tell it:
• “I got up and staggered to the bathroom, each step like a knife through my head. The shower was too cold, then too hot, and they don’t make a brand of soap that could have made me feel clean.”
• First-person narration must reveal the narrator’s character or it isn’t worth doing. The narrator must be the kind of person who would tell the tale, and her motives and attitudes must show up in the story. If you find that you can’t do this, then you have three choices: You can admit that first-person narrative isn’t going to work in this story, and switch to third person; invent your first-person character and create her voice by discovering her attitudes, motives, expectations, and past; or experiment with other first-person narrators until you find one whose character you can create.
8. Series Character-What’s Your Viewpoint
Now that we’ve discussed first person, let’s focus on third person. What are the advantages and disadvantages of writing in third person?
What is the difference between omniscient vs. limited point of view. (In my opinion, this is the MOST common mistake made by writers.)
9. Omniscient vs. Limited POV
• OMNISCIENT: The reader sees every character’s thoughts, dreams, memories, and desires. They can see any moment of the past or future for any character in the story.
• LIMITED: The narrator is led through the story by one character, seeing only what that character sees; aware of what that character thinks and wants and remembers, but unable to do more than guess at any other character’s inner life.
10. Scene Breaks
The limited narrator can change viewpoint characters. Not in mid-scene or even mid-paragraph, as the omniscient narrator does, but from one scene to another, as long as there is a clear transitional break.
A change of viewpoint is the MOST DIFFICULT transition for readers to make. It’s a lot easier for readers to adapt to the viewpoint change if they have already met the new viewpoint character, and it’s even easier if the new viewpoint character is already very important in the story.
11. Making up your mind:
Omniscient narrators are more presentational and will automatically rely more on telling than showing. (Not recommended for series characters.)
First person narrators are better if you are writing humor. These intrusive narrators can make wry comments with the kind of wit that calls attention to itself without being jarring.
If you’re confident in the strength of the story versus the personality of the character, third person narration is the safest viewpoint to write.
12. Outlining
For a series focusing on a single character, it’s important to know where you’re going.
Each book should have its own story problem and some form of the villain.
The villain can be an overarching character who can appear in each book (think Voldemort in Harry Potter.) Or each book can have different villains, such as Nancy Drew.