Thursday, 4 February 2010

Writing: Distinctive Characters

I think nothing s more frustrating than creating fiction that your readers can find glaring errors with.

Where writers create problems for themselves is when they try to invent distinctive characters.

Although I don't agree that a writer should only write what they know, if you're going to create a character that's a geek, you, the writer, should at least know what HTML stands for or be willing to Google it. (If you do not know what 'Google' is, don't go down the geek path. In fact, the word 'geek' is probably going over your head right now...)

Why? Because you know there's a geek out there reading your book and saying, 'you can't do that.' Or what kind of coding is this?

What if you're really an experienced writer, what if you've never been out of the state or province you were born in? What if you want one of your characters to speak Punjabi? Does that mean you're stuck?


Nah, just joking.

But, you need to be willing to research. And, if you truly know little about a certain subject, don't throw in details that you can't backup.

In my latest book, my detectives go to a house and meet a man who draws Anime. I don't know why I chose that hobby but I don't know much about it. What did I do? I went to the library and I search on Google and learned as much as I could about the subject. And then, I hardly mentioned it at all in the book other than he painted anime floor to ceiling in his living room and that the girl drawn had large eyes in proportion to her head.

Why do I go through all the effort?
1) I want an accurate book.
2) I am a lot smarter now than a fifth grader. Well, almost.

The point: If you don't know and don't research - don't write!

Oh, and please, if you haven't done so already, submit something funny to the contest. I would love to award someone $50 worth of books for their trouble.

Here's a joke my son told me... (this is an example of what I'm looking for)

Question: What's brown and sticky?
Answer: A stick.

That wasn't so hard.


Elizabeth Bradley said...

Yes, it's important to get the facts straight. Reaserch matters. And, a side note--don't you hate it when authors try to write teenagers and get the lingo wrong? They often use slang terms from when they were kids, sometimes back in the stone age. I always wonder how that gets past the editors. Conversely, if an author is writing a period piece and they use lingo from today, so irritating. Thanks, good post.

Anonymous said...

You should try writing non-fictional humor! LMAO I totally agree Ann. Research, research, research. That's what makes the characters believable.

Ann Elle Altman said...

Elizabeth, oh yes I do! It can really age a writer when they're writing modern fiction and still using 'golly gee'.

Wiggy, you're right. That would be hard, but you seem to pull it off.


Jaydee Morgan said...

For me, research is my least favorite part of the writing process. However, I do understand the importance and this post is a good reminder of why it must be done.

Carol Kilgore said...

Totally agree about the importance of research. What may end up being one line can throw everything out of whack or cause the reader to throw the book across the room if it isn't right. But don't we learn a lot!

Patricia Stoltey said...

One of the things I love about writing fiction is the research required to get the little details right. I need to do a bit on Cuba and the missile crisis for one little paragraph early in my current wip. The pitfall is that research can suck us in. We get so interested in the topic that we keep reading and reading, after the need has long been satisfied.

Ann Elle Altman said...

Fairway Fiction, yeah, unless it's something I've been looking forward to learning for awhile.

Carol, I would hate it if someone threw my book across the room.

Patricia, since I began writing, my knowledge base has increased a great deal. For that, I'm thankful.


Anonymous said...

I love to research!! Sometimes even more than writing. Often more than writing.


from the desk of a writer