Okay, maybe there’s no such thing as ONE best book for fiction writers, but despite two recent blogs I’ve done on writer’s block and deepening characters (which recommend various books on writing craft and character) I’ve found an even better book to recommend.
The Art of Character: Creating Memorable Characters for Fiction, Film and TV Paperback by David Corbett, is definitely the best I’ve found. I suggest using it to draw up or improve your template of questions about characters in your developing story. Better yet, do the exercises found at the end of each chapter.
Some of my favorite quotes from this book:
“In a sense, the work of characterization recalls the story of Geppetto the woodcutter. As writers, we start with a bit of raw material that interests us, and work at it day and night, not just deliberately and attentively but lovingly, until finally, like Pinocchio, through some strange paradox, that bit of material takes on a life of its own.” p. 9
“We are seeking the ‘sweet spot’ where we have a sufficient grasp of a character to allow ourselves to let go of her and let her surprise us.” p. 116
“Characters reveal themselves more vividly in what they do and say than in what they think and feel.” p. 124
“There’s no point trying to shoehorn meaning into the drama, or marshaling characters and scenes to fit a preconceived profundity. That’s propaganda, not drama. Instead, I infer my meaning from what I’ve intuitively recognized as the story’s best form.” p. 216
“The inclination to confine protagonists in a prison of virtue typically traces back to the often-heard demand that they be likable. It’s true that in a novel or film you’re asking the reader or audience to spend a great deal of time with a character, and no one wants to spend hours with an annoying, wheedling, sniveling piss pot. But neither do they want to waste an afternoon with a Boy Scout’s shadow. It’s far more important that we empathize with a character than like her–which is just as true of villains as heroes.” p.. 263
My cap’s off to David Corbett, and here’s hoping some of his coaching will sneak into my current novel in progress.