Skip to main content

Don't Assume

Creating Dynamic Characters from Writer's Online Workshops

In Chapter Eleven of her book Dynamic Characters, Nancy Kress warns against assuming your readers will share your assumptions about character. Even when the assumptions are shared-as in Kress's example of the mother losing the child-as a writer, you should not miss an opportunity to expand and increase the tension of the story. Sometimes detailing the torment the character is going through, the obstacles she faces in trying to solve the problem, is a way to strengthen the reader-character bond. Other times, as Kress notes, the details may slow the story down. You have to assess the needs of your story. It's a good idea to write out the scene fully the first time around, then cut later if you feel the need to speed things up.

Antinomy (the apparent contradiction of two elements) plays a part here. If your character's reactions CONTRADICT what the reader expects, that can create interest and tension. The reader will look at this contradiction as a type of mystery, and mystery compels reading on for an answer. So explore opportunities to characterize through contradiction. Keep in mind, though, that antimony is only apparent contradiction. Once all is said and done-that is, once your story is told-your reader must understand why your characters acted the way they did, and those actions must be logically motivated by the characters' attitudes and backgrounds. This is why this background work is so important. As you create your characters, spend time analyzing various attitudes they can have, both understandable and strange. Make a list of possibilities, and then choose the most interesting (but be prepared to provide sufficient reason for any unexpected ones).

How Writers Can Apply Business Tools to Their Writing

How Writers Can Apply Business Tools to Their Writing

Author Katherine Quevedo takes an analytical look at the creative process in hopes to help other writers find writing success.

Nick Petrie: On Following the Most Compelling Story

Nick Petrie: On Following the Most Compelling Story

Award-winning author Nick Petrie discusses how he listened to the story that wanted to be told in his new Peter Ash thriller novel, The Runaway.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 596

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a punishment poem.

Jacquelyn Mitchard: On Forgiveness in Fiction

Jacquelyn Mitchard: On Forgiveness in Fiction

Award-winning novelist Jacquelyn Mitchard discusses the chance meeting that led to her new novel, The Good Son.

Sea Bound

Sea Bound

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, write about someone connected to the sea.

writersMarket_wd-ad_1000x300 (1)

Get Published With the Latest Market Books Editions

Get published and find more success with your writing by using the latest editions of the Market Books, including Writer's Market, Poet's Market, Guide to Literary Agents, and more!

Michigan Quarterly Review: Market Spotlight

Michigan Quarterly Review: Market Spotlight

For this week's market spotlight, we look at Michigan Quarterly Review, the flagship literary journal of the University of Michigan.

Desperate vs. Disparate (Grammar Rules)

Desperate vs. Disparate (Grammar Rules)

This post looks at the differences between desperate and disparate with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

What Is Pastiche in Literature, and Why Is Sherlock Holmes Perfect for It?

What Is Pastiche in Literature, and Why Is Sherlock Holmes Perfect for It?

What has made Sherlock Holmes so adaptable and changeable throughout the character’s original inception? Author Timothy Miller explains.