Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Credible Incredible

Dear Dead Beat,

what is the most important quality of characterisation in fiction? I struggle to create believable characters.


Dear Concerned,

You have put your finger on it - credibility - characters must be credible. However, only in the context of the story. Characters on paper are never 'real', cannot be. They are heightened versions of real people. They have to live out their lives quickly in the story. Thus we heighten, intensify them. In the same way dialogue is not 'real' in stories. No one, thank God, really talks like characters in books. So they are credible in an incredible sort of way.

This 'heightened nature' is very important and hard to achieve.

Consistency may be part of the answer. If the character is consistent in their behaviour and so on, they are more likely to be accepted as 'real'. Once again, watch out. This consistency awaits the moment of inconsistency. The great moment of the story occurs when the character acts in a way unexpected.

Think on this and come back to me with further thoughts,

Dead Beat

Please ask any questions through the comment section.


ghjab said...

I have read several short stories for class recently. Three of the five assigned had a window in them.

What is the literary significance of a window?

Thank you,

Anonymous said...

Dear Deadbeat
I read your comments on characterisation with interest. Here's another question - Sometimes, especially toward the middle of a story, I find myself stopping, almost afraid to continue. I wonder why this is. Typically, my story has started out strongly, I am really into the character, what he/she thinks, loves, likes, does, believes. I usually know how the story is going to end, it's just so hard to find the way to move my characters to that endpoint. I wonder, is it possible for a writer to care too much about a character or characters, and therefore, allow his/her writing to become paralyzed? Do you have any theories about this? I'm writing short stories, as I have no novel ideas yet, or at least, nothing that could be spun into a novel-length treatment. I love short stories and I would like to succeed at it, but this problem has me stumped...

Gratefully yours,

(apologies to Stealer's Wheel)

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