Characters have Secrets


Characters have Secrets

Natalie Bright

 

Grey’s Anatomy has me captivated again. Since first premiering on ABC in 2005, I’ve got thirteen yeas of writing experience and I’m watching the show in a whole new frame of mind. A writer’s mind. And thanks to Netflix or Hulu, I don’t have to be patient for another season to begin. Binge watching is extremely inspiring for a creative soul.

The characterization in this medical drama television series is brilliant and addictive. This show is the perfect example of developing depth in fictional characters. One of the ways you can make your characters leap off the page is to give them secrets. Real people have secrets. We have things buried deep within us that we’ll never tell. What we say out loud is not always reflective of what we may be hiding inside.

You’ve probably heard the story craft tool of throwing everything at your character. Conflict keeps the plot moving and holds the readers’ interest. As authors, we are all border line sadistic when it comes to the things we put our characters through.

Let’s look at the characters and their secrets in the show Grey’s Anatomy:

Meredith Grey: central protagonist, is hiding her mother’s illness, who was a brilliant surgeon herself, and is sleeping with her boss while trying to succeed under her mother’s shadow.

Izzie: feels unworthy of her smarts and success because she grew up very poor in a trailer park.

Christina: sleeping with her boss and she has an almost unhealthy obsession with cutting people open.

Dr. Burke: begins a romantic relationship with an intern.

George: is secretly in love with Meredith and is extremely smart,  and not the goof-ball that the world sometimes sees.

Alex: cares deeply about his career and relates to patients on a deeper level, as opposed to the A-hole, shallow attitude he sometimes displays.

Dr. Webber: Surgery chief hides a medical issue with his eyes and had an affair with Meredith’s mom when they were in medical school.

Dr. Shepherd is married and does not tell his girlfriend Meredith, who is an intern.

That barely scratches the surface as the show develops, but you get the idea. The fun part is that we know their secrets as an audience, and we can’t help but watch to see if, and when, they will reveal all to each other. It’s very entertaining and can be applied to the characters in your books.

In season 2, Izzie prepares a Thanksgiving meal for everybody. She explains to Dr. Burk that she wants just one day where they can be normal and act like everybody else. Dr. Burke mumbles, “A day without surgery.” That one line says so much about him as a character and about the entire theme of the show. You have to watch carefully and pay attention to those one-liners. When I first watched the show every week thirteen years ago, I was caught up in the medical issues of the patients. Now I’m focusing my attention entirely on the characters.

As an added bonus, Shonda Rhimes explains her writing process and development of the series at MasterClass.com.

Happy writing, and thanks for following WordSmith Six!

 

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The Empty Room


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Empty Room

I stand here in this room listening for any sounds at all.  Nothing.  Dead silence.  I do hear echoes from past rants and raves, parties, fun, news casts, but all is quiet now.

The room is dark, but a little light comes in from the hallway where there are thousands of lesser doors.  The bit of light sneaking in behind me shows confetti, glitter, tissues, and even candy lying on the floor as a reminder of the phantom cheers and cries of the characters that are normally here.  There is a table near the podium in the corner covered with sheets of paper that contain words—happy words and lonely words, funny words and mad words, velvet words and loud words.

Where are the characters that inhabit this room?  There was someone in here not long ago, but they are all gone now and the silence is deafening.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Nandy Ekle

The Empty Room


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Empty Room

I stand here in this room listening for any sounds at all.  Nothing.  Dead silence.  I do hear echoes from past rants and raves, parties, fun, news casts, but all is quiet now.

The room is dark, but a little light comes in from the hallway where there are thousands of lesser doors.  The bit of light sneaking in behind me shows confetti, glitter, tissues, and even candy lying on the floor as a reminder of the phantom cheers and cries of the characters that are normally here.  There is a table near the podium in the corner covered with sheets of paper that contain words—happy words and lonely words, funny words and mad words, velvet words and loud words.

Where are the characters that inhabit this room?  There was someone in here not long ago, but they are all gone now and the silence is deafening.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Nandy Ekle

Thinking Too Much


Outtakes 212

Thinking Too Much

by Cait Collins

I believe certain aspects of a work should be researched. Historical facts need to be checked, and laws, procedures, and medical information must be accurate. However, too much technical jargon can slow the story and frustrate the reader. Barry Eisler writes some of the best thrillers. He uses a perfect marriage of a fast action story, memorable characters and spy-speak. He relies on good story telling instead of clocking the action in technicalities. There are other very popular writers who overwhelm me with their expert knowledge.

It’s not just technical over-thinking that can hinder a project. Back story and excessive description are also enemies of good story telling. The reader does not need nor does he want to know the whole story up front. And who wants to wade through three pages describing the sunrise or fly fishing in a mountain stream.

The old KISS philosophy works well when planning a story. Keep It Simple, Stupid. (Stupid references the writer, not the reader.) By adhering to good plot, dynamic characters, and proper setting, the story can be told well. Those fascinating details will season and spice the work when they are properly and sparingly sprinkled into the mix.

 

Timeless


Outtakes 208

Timeless

by Cait Collins

 

Do you ever wonder why certain books, plays and poetry are still taught in school? I have a theory. The classics were written by men and women who perfected their craft. They didn’t rest on laurels; instead they invested time in making the next work better.

Students groan when they open Julius Caesar but the story is still worth telling. The characters have the same concerns as men and women today. We have issues with government and power grabbing.

Mark Twain revealed a dark time in American history. TOM SAWYER AND HUCKLEBERRY FINN did not necessarily defend slavery. The stories revealed a truth that can bring about change. Tom and Huck are so right as boys in the late 1800’s. I’ve met a few shysters who could pull off the whitewashing of the fence with a wink and a smile.

JANE EYRE depicts the times when men ruled and women held a second class status. But it also shows the growth of a young woman beyond the customary role to become a strong and faithful lady of means.

Then there are new classics. I truly believe the Harry Potters series will stand the test of time. After all daring deeds and heroic action will always be popular. And like the previously noted volumes, the Potter books will be part of my library. As will Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, Craig Johnson’s LONGMIRE stories, and Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunters.

These authors and others like them found the formula for success. They developed memorable characters, had good stories and plots. They employed the basis of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Above all, they wrote for the reader and not just for themselves.

What books are in your library? Is there a mixture of old and new? Are the covers pristine or worn? Are there some volumes that are dog-eared and faded from handling? I do hope your library is just like mine. I hope you have a mixture of everything and you read and reread your old favorites and acquire new favorites. After all, good writing never goes out of style.

 

A NEW DIMENSION


A NEW DIMENSION

By Rory C Keel

After looking back at some of my writing, I noticed that my characters were flat, and not because they’re typed words on a screen. No, they  have no depth, no dimension.

As I start the new year of writing, I will create what I will call character interviews. In Gail Carson Levine’s book, WRITING MAGIC, she suggests making a character questionnaire.

Make a list of questions and fill in the answers such as: name or nickname, what type of being (human, alien etc…), age, sex, physical appearance and characteristics, family members and friends, pets, hobbies?

Then ask deeper questions like: What are my character’s talents and abilities? What are their faults, fears and good qualities?

If you have flat characters, try interviewing your character and give them a new dimension!

Rory C. Keel

Why


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Why

By Nandy Ekle

WHY DO YOU WRITE?

I was born a long time ago with an enlarged imagination.

Pretend you have a box that jiggles and thumps and makes all kinds of noises constantly. Something inside that box whispers, knocks, and calls begging you you to open the lid. It tells you how much fun you would have if you let it out. Then it tells you what a great friend it would be. It tells you how it’s suffocating locked in that box. It begins to sound weak and sickly, sometimes hardly able to speak at all.

So you open the lid.

A dark shadowy shape jumps out sucking in a deep breaths of oxygen. Suddenly all the characters begin talking at once and a hundred scenes act out simultaneously as the shadow unfolds itself. You sit back and enjoy the show for a while, picking up bits and pieces of stories. And the shadow grows bigger and the voices grow louder. It’s now the middle of the night and you know you’ll never get to sleep like this.

You grab the dark thing by the hand and tell it play time is over; it’s time to get back in the box. It giggles and jerks away. So you chase it a while, trying not to get too caught up in its game. You finally catch hold of it again and try to refold it so it will fit back in the box, but it’s like trying to refold a map–just not gonna happen.

You get an idea. Grabbing a pen and paper you write down some of the stories the characters acted out. The more you write, the smaller the shadow gets and the quieter the voices get. Finally you can grab the dark thing by the ear, drop it in the box and close the lid. Now you can sleep.

This is why I write.

The End


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The End 

By Nandy Ekle

What a rush! There’s no feeling better in all the world. I actually wrote “the end” and took a deep giggly breath of air.

And it wasn’t just putting the two words on the page, because anyone could just stick “the end” anywhere. No, it was knowing where to put them. And more than just where, it was HOW to put them.

Think about it. You have the most amazing concept in the world. You think and plan, outline if you must. You discuss it with friends and research all possibilities. You start typing the words and hit a roadblock. You’ve come to the end of your comfort zone. I know a lot of very smart people who might stick “the end” on it and walk away. But not this time.

This time you’re serious about it. The characters continue to whisper and get you past the block. Then boom, the next roadblock. But you’re determined. Yeah, there’s holidays and problems, but you keep pushing that pencil on.

Then the characters stop talking. “Come on, guys,” you say. “We’re not at ‘the end’ yurt. But they’re tired and don’t want to talk anymore. I, myself, have been guilty of sticking those two words there.

But this time, when the heroine and hero stopped talking, I decided to make it up on my own. Oh, it was nothing close to good, but it was like a bucket of ice water on my little people to wake them up and get them moving again. They saw what I was writing and jumped up, yanked the pencil from my hand and the story continued.

And there it was. The glorious end of the road. I took a deep breath and boldly put my pencil to the paper. Very carefully, desperately trying not to get too excited, I wrote “The End” in exactly the right place.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Static or Changing?


Static or Changing?

By Rory C. Keel

Almost every novel has two kinds of characters, static characters and changing characters.

Static Characters

A static character is one that does not change and remains the same through out the narrative. Minor characters are often considered static characters, such as an evil thug sidekick to a villain. Static characters lack the power to change or develop throughout the story.

Most often they are recognized as characters that have traits such as envy, pride, greed and revenge. While static characters can also be marked by any number of traits, they will portray them to a fault.

Changing Characters

Changing characters are truer to life because change is a part of life. A person who goes through a deeply emotional trial or event will usually undergo some kind of change.

A character in a novel will also face these internal and physical changes based upon the pressures of the situation they face in the narrative. Having the power to change makes the character less predictable allowing the reader to be surprised at unexpected changes the author writes.

As you write your characters, can you identify the static and changing characters?

Where do I start?


 Where do I start?

This is a common question by those who want to write a book. With all the many instructions and how-to’s out there, let me suggest three simple Ideas.

Develop a THEME for your book.

First, develop a theme for your story. Theme is different than subject in that it expresses a purpose or intent of the subject. For example, your subject might be a run-away girl, but your theme might be, “There’s no place like home.” The theme is what ties your plot and characters together.

Develop the PLOT

Develop the Plot or the action of your story. The plot is not equivalent to conflict, but is a series of dilemmas or encounters, which may include conflict, that helps your main character to evolve through their needs and motivations.

Create CHARACTERS

These are the people who reveal your theme. They connect with the reader by their traits and inner qualities described by the writer in a believable way. By matching their characteristics with the theme and running them through the plot, they must change in some recognizable way.

These three intertwined together will form a satisfying story. So let’s get started!

Rory C. Keel