July 31, 2016

Slice of PIE: Building Character

Using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, August 2015, I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. This is event #4615 . The link is provided below…

Characters with “Character” in YA Fiction Not all characters are created equally. Some are made for moving the plot along, some are created for comedy relief, and some crafted to inspire. A book is created around characters readers can get behind, love, hate or empathize with, laugh at. From heroes to villains and more, authors share some of their favorite YA fiction characters and what makes these characters so interesting. Find out what characters work and what characters don’t for young adult readers. William Campbell Powell (m), Gail Carriger, Deby Fredericks, Rebecca Moesta

Ugh – building believable characters is a real weakness of mine…

So, how does the panel qualify?

William Campbell Powell (m) – a solid SF book under his belt. Check.
Gail Carriger – commented earlier, she wrote the Parasol Protectorate books. Check (again!)
Deby Fredericks – a few Kindle books in fantasy. Check.
Rebecca Moesta – no comment needed! A spectacular writer whom I respect and love to read! (For those of you NOT in the know, she’s written more than a “few” STAR WARS books with her husband Kevin J. Anderson.)

There’s some real fire power here and I’m sure the discussion was fascinating.

How DO you build believable characters?

RM first: “YA and middle grade fiction has been my favorite to read since I was about ten. Somehow, I never outgrew it. There’s a magic in YA: it’s the literature of transformation. Something essential always happens to the main characters. The journey from childhood to adulthood presents challenges and rites of passage that are social, emotional, physical, and moral. Our protagonists confront issues like first love, conflicting loyalties, losing a family member, false friends, uncertain values, leaving home, poverty or violence, idealism vs pragmatism.” (http://www.rowena-cory-daniells.com/2011/10/01/meet-rebecca-moesta/)

GC: “…my favorite kind of character to write – practical to a fault, capable in a crisis, frustrating to the other characters around her, and all too often getting herself into impossible situations out of sheer nerve. It can be a little annoying trying to write myself out of the corner they have gotten the plot into, but they are so rich in friends, they have help in times of dire need.” (http://gailcarriger.com/about/never-ending-interview/)

WCP: “…told through diary entries from the main character with a couple of other things thrown into the mix. I was strongly reminded of The Testament of Jessie Lamb while reading Expiration Day, since most of the book deals with the day to day adventures of a teenager in a world that is collapsing out from under the human race.” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/814967264?utm_campaign=reviews&utm_medium=widget&utm_source=faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com)

OK – so I know I CAN built characters, but I don’t know the formula yet!

How do I do it? I’ve read books and I’ve tried to reduce my own successes to something I can use more consistently. People seem to like Emerald. I think they’ll like Zechariah in HOTSS: Zechariah of Venus the new book I’m working on now.

But if there’s a formula here, I could pull this from the three observations above:

1) “Something essential always happens to the main characters…”
2) “…practical, capable, frustrating to the other characters, sheer nerve…”
3) “…told through diary entries, day to day adventures…”

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