Blogger: Etta Wilson
Location: Books&Such office, Nashville
Weather: 70s and breezy
One thing is clear–a whole lot of people are writing about “fictional character development”! According to Google today, there are 372,000 entries for that topic. Reading a few of them convinces me that the process of creating characters is serious business in the field of fiction. I’m also impressed with the responses from our blog readers who are generating new characters. No slouches there.
Two things started my train of thought on character: Reading again Natalie Babbit’s Tuck Everlasting (c1975) and realizing how seamlessly she had woven the lives of Winnie Foster, who lived in time as we know it, and the Tucks, who had entered a sort of eternity after drinking water from a secret source. I wondered why the movie of this book didn’t do any better at the box office–lots of possible answers there. Maybe the audience had moved on from that sort of story, or maybe the characters were not electric enough for current tastes.
The other stimulus for thinking about character development was reading Joelle Anthony’s article in the March/April SCBWI Bulletin on “Avoiding the Character Cliche.” She offers some basic pointers worth reading for creating minor characters and antagonists in middle grade and teen fiction. Most fiction writers concentrate on main character(s), but the lesser ones can too easily fall into the trap of being altogether evil or stand for all that the main character opposes. This was a classic approach in an earlier age such as the Elsie books, which Martha Finley wrote in the late 1800s. Not that there aren’t really evil people, but it takes more work to create an antagonist who is at fault but has some redeeming aspects of humanity.
Well, as you can see, I’m still wrestling! We all want unique and memorable characters. What characters in middle grade or teen novels stand out to you?