How an offhand remark about point of view set me to thinking: The Authors Collection

Vow Unbroken

 

On Saturday I attended a writing work shop.

As usual, the event triggered thoughts in my mind about the writing craft.

The one that stuck with me the most was an offhand remark one of the presenters made about point of view.

The topic was “story” led by husband and wife team Caryl and Ron McAdoo. The McAdoos have paid heir dues in the writing world, and Caryl’s book Vow Unbroken, a Christian historical romance, will be released by Howard Books the first week in March 2014.

Ron and Caryl first talked about their experience in critique groups in the early days of their writing journey and discussed showing versus telling.

“We got that pretty quick,” Ron said.

But, Ron went on to say, the hardest part of the learning curve for them was “getting” point of view.

He added. “Once you get it, you’ve got it.”

It was at this point in the presentation that Ron made this offhand remark.

“Have you ever been talking to someone when they go on and on about a person you don’t know? Boring,” he said.

Ever since Ron said that, his words have played in my head.

The point he was making was that until a reader knows a character what the character does is unimportant, irrelevant.

Ron’s remark has made me re-think my approach to developing characters.

The author’s challenge is to take a group of characters that are strangers to a reader and build an emotional tie to them.

How often have we heard the report of a person injured in a car wreck. If we don’t know the injured party we may have a reaction of sorrow based on fundamental human compassion.  But compare that reaction to the one we have if the news concerns a friend or a family member.  Now the tragedy is not hypothetical. We care about it, race to the hospital, get on the phone to let others in our sphere of love know about it.

Unless the reader knows the characters from a prior book in a series, however, every character she meets in a book is a stranger, a person about whom she has no reason yet to care.

The author, on the other hand, has lived with those characters for months or years, knows them inside out, understands why their death or injury should matter.

His job is to make those characters matter to the reader.

He can’t do that by dropping characters into a story from outer space.  Rather he must build the relationship to the reader, and do it in a hurry.

That’s why every word in a book matters, and must further the goal of introducing yet another reason why the reader would care for and about a character who until only a few moments before was a rank stranger.

 

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  • Bert Carson

    Well said – and who better to present the character than the character him or herself. I think that is the unmentioned power source for both Spenser and Travis McGee – they tell their stories – Most of Shute’s character’s do the same – My favorite, Tom Cutter, does it so well you are walking beside him from the end of the first sentence to the end of the book (Round the Bend) and, if you’re like me for the rest of your life.

    • That other guy

      And Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird 😀

  • Darlene Jones

    Spot on! When we think back to books we’ve read and loves, it’s the characters that come to mind — not the plot or setting. We relate, first and foremost, to the people in the book.

    • Jex, Defialer of Norms

      Not so! 1984! I don’t think of Winston, I think of Big Brother and the thought police, Doublethink and the party, our current society and the depths of oppression that we are headed to.

  • jack43

    I have put aside many books and walked out on many movies because I couldn’t find a character I cared about. Why should I care what happens to them if I don’t like them? Indeed, as in Fatal Attraction, I walked out because I felt that he deserved anything he got…

    • Jex, dissident fairytales

      But what about the story? surely there are good stories without likeable characters? such as 1984, winston is kind of a douche, but he’s the type of douche that you know exists everywhere, therefore he plays his part in the story well, because that’s how most people are and would be in that society (ours *hint hint*)

  • Caleb Pirtle

    There are many tragedies in writing. One is thinking readers care as much about a character as we do.

    • Jex, The Dissident.

      Well put.

  • You have to make the reader care even about the unsavory or selfish characters (Scarlett O’Hara comes to mind). Even if it is the kind of caring that makes people watch a train wreck. It helps when that train wreck character is also pulling another, more likable, character down with her.

  • James

    i think yall need to shut up

  • louie

    yall’s some niggas

  • louie

    i liked the book and all but yea..

  • James

    Nugguh

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