02 January, 2013

Writing The Human Stories: An IWSG Post

The IWSG was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh and co-hosted this month by Alex, Tyrean Martinson, and Jamie Gibbs.

It's time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic.

I'll tell you right now, I'm not that good at characterization; my strength, I think, lies in plot while setting falls somewhere in between. Whenever I consider something I've written I usually think "Gosh, those characters are melodramatic drama queens", or "Gee whiz, they're robots for people", or "Heck, is that main character supposed to be bipolar?", or "Dagnabbit, I didn't mean for the poor sod to be that simplistic."

And so on. Granted, a writer can do very well on plot alone, so long as the characters have the right motivations and the main character isn't going "Huzzah!" when, say, the love interest falls into the Pit of Doom and Despair--but I really think it's a demonstration of a writer's skill when there's great emotional conflict and the battlefield involves making decisions that can change or hurt or improve people's lives, not just the fate of a galactic empire or something (though I love high-stakes stories).

I have trouble pulling off the human element. Making sure my characters are realistic human beings with believable thoughts is one of the things I have to work on; making sure they react to and behave as though things are actually happening with them, not only to them.

I guess I've got a goal for 2013!

Do you have trouble with human stories? What's your writing strong point: Characterization, plot, setting, something else? What's your weak point and how do you try making it stronger?

-----The Golden Eagle


Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I worry sometimes that my characters are too much like other characters I've written. I struggle to make them all unique.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Characters and the human element are easy for me. Plot is somewhere in the middle and setting is something I'm still working on.
I think it helps to know what is your weak spot. You will think more about making it stronger and just how to make it stronger.

prerna pickett said...

this is great. I think, for me, characterization is something I need to work on as well. Usually I type up a character analysis for my characters before I start writing so I know a little bit more about them and make sure their reactions and actions correlate with those things that make them who they are. You'll get better at it as you go along. It's all about the journey- such a cheesy thing to say, but it's true.

Southpaw said...

I "think" the weaker thing for me is characterization as well. I'm always thinking that it was hokey or off or something.

Pat Hatt said...

Yeah it can be a bit of a stretch to do, but it can be pulled off, plus a little less human can be fun too.

Andrew Leon said...

I think description is where I most need to work.

Trisha said...

I think I'm pretty good at characterisation, and yet I'm always learning lessons about the difference between what I think and what is reality. ;)

Carol Kilgore said...

I'm not a good judge of my own work. I think plot is my weakest point. And overall structure. Likewise, I believe setting is easiest, followed by characterization. I don't know what readers think.

Krista McLaughlin said...

I struggle with feeling my characters are real. Well, I think they are real but I worry they won't seem real to the reader. Characterization is good in my mind, but I'm not so sure on paper.

Denise Covey said...

Hi Golden. I'm told I have a strong voice which probably means I am okay at characterisation. My weakness is planning -- I rely too much on my characters to write my story for me, lol!

Beth said...

At this point my weak points are use of language and "showing." I used to be bad at plot, but I turned it into a positive. I took books apart on my blog until I got good at it.

Jeff Hargett said...

That's a very good question. I believe my strength may be setting even though I'd prefer it be plot or character. But as with everything else, the perfect character for one reader is a total turn-off for another. In the end, I believe it is we who should be able to see and appreciate the depth in our characters and depict that depth in words. No easy chore. Here's to your success!

JeffO said...

Well, as I aim for character-driven stories, I sure hope I'm good at characterization!

Charity Bradford said...

I'm going to join the characterization club because that seems to be what I worked on the most with my editor. My strength though might be a tie between plot and dialogue.

In the beginning my dialogue was so cheesy, but now I think it comes across pretty natural. It's possibly my favorite part now.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Nice post and goal! I struggle with my MCs . . .I know this sounds strange, but my secondary characters often end up fairly believable and my MCs are ones that I struggle with . . .they have a tendency to range from drama queen to blah. I've been digging into the Emotion Thesaurus and re-reading my character profiles to get my MCs into shape.
Best of wishes for 2013!

Ciara said...

Plot is easy, taking pauses in the story to allow the characterization moments to happen are tough.

Jamie Gibbs said...

Some great chracterization I've seen is in Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking trilogy; give that a look.

I think it's something I struggle with as well. I'm all for the atmosphere and culture of a world, but then when I write about the people, I freeze up. Something to work on this year, I suppose :)


Empty Nest Insider said...

Sometimes I start out writing about humans, but by the end I'm not always sure!

Donna Hole said...

I write excellent characters. I just don't always have a story plot for them to involve in :( Plot is my weakest aspect as a writer.

Its so awesome when story plot and character plot merge and make a great story. Not an easy task for most of us.


mooderino said...

Saggy middles tend to be my kryptonite. If I'm getting bored I'm sure the readers will too.

Moody Writing

Tammy Theriault said...

I try to write the way I talk.seems to work for me!

Elise Fallson said...

"Dagnabbit, I didn't mean for the poor sod to be that simplistic." xD

Characterization can be a challenge for many. Sometimes I have trouble with it, while other times it seems to come out ok. I think having a good CP or beta reader can help.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if I have that one strong point. But I think I do a lot of things well. Similar to the decathalon. You don;t have to excel at one thing, just be very good at a lot of things.

Charles Gramlich said...

If you need a strength, I suspect it's plot. That's what most folks read for. I think I'm fairly strong in action and description, much less so in dialogue.

Anthony said...

I've often wondered why more fiction isn't group written-a collaborative experience where each person adds their special touch.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Characters are the most important part. It makes sense that it's the hardest to do Golden Eagle.

mshatch said...

I have trouble with the emotional side of my characters, too. But I'm getting better!

Bio Toxin said...

almost sounds like me and my game script, I write so much but most of it isn't meant to be good or bad so much as thought provoking, but my game script is meant to be a masterpiece and thus I'm afraid of anyone ever seeing it before I feel I've perfected it.

The Golden Eagle said...

Susan: I don't tend to have trouble with individual characters--at least I think--but sometimes I worry that they'll be too much like characters other people have created.

Alex: Good for you!

True. At least I know what needs fixing.

Prerna: Thanks!

Oddly enough, I wrote a couple character analyses for one story, listing their personality traits and going into detail about their appearances, but that story fizzled out. Maybe I should try again.

Agreed. :)

Southpaw: Same here!

Pat: I had an idea for a story written through the perspective of a half-alien/android, which I might go back to sometime . . .

Andrew: I need to work on my description, too. I tend to get a bit long-winded when I start describing things, or over-explain bits and under-explain others.

Trisha: Writing is definitely a learning experience. :)

Carol: I don't think I am, either; but whenever I think over what I've done, my characterization always sticks out at me, even with my skewed perspective of my own work.

Krista: I do the same thing! The people exist in my head, but staying true to them in words can be hard.

Denise: That's awesome. A strong voice is always a good thing. :)

Beth: Use of language--that's one of my hangups as well.

It must have taken perseverance to study books for that long. I should try analyzing what I read, but I'm usually too invested in the story to want to bother. :P

Jeff: Agreed. A lot of people have different opinions when it comes to what makes a good or realistic character.

Thanks! Here's to yours as well.

JeffO: I don't think I could pull off a really good character-driven story. I admire you for doing so!

Charity: I love dialogue. I used to really suck at making characters interact in a realistic manner, but I think I can manage it now.

Tyrean: Thank you!

Nah, it's not strange; I think I know what you mean. My first book had a huge cast and I found myself liking the supporting characters at least as much as the main characters.

Happy New Year!

Ciara: Ah, yes: Pacing. I have a hard time getting the flow of a story right, too.

The Golden Eagle said...

Jamie: I've read that trilogy and it's one of my favorite YA Science Fiction series. :)

You and me both!

Julie: Indeed. Sometimes I'm not sure what I end up with!

Donna: Agreed--or at least it isn't easy for me. Here's to bringing them together in 2013!

Mooderino: I'm working on my story from NaNoWriMO and I'm afraid my middle is loose; could use some work.

Tammy: I've done that. :) Reading stuff out loud can help a lot.

Elise: Glad I could amuse you!

I'm thinking about having someone (or a few people) look over the novel I'm writing now, once it's been revised and all that. Never had a CP/beta reader, but a lot of writers say they're vital.

Stephen: Good point! As long as it's a cohesive whole, a story can work.

Charles: That's a good thing to hear, seeing as I think it's one of my stronger areas.

I really can't do action very well. It's impressive when a writer pulls off a great scene!

Anthony: I think writers who have critique partners are, in a way, collaborating; though it's true, there aren't that many books written by two or more authors compared to the number of stories written by only one. Maybe writers are just too independent.

Maurice: That's why I worry about characterization. Readers notice it right off the bat.

Mshatch: Awesome! :)

Bio Toxin: I don't really like showing people my work, either. Blogging has helped dilute anxiety over displaying my writing, but it's still there--and I'm still the only one who's read an entire novel by me.

Lynda R Young said...

The human element is the one that matters a great deal because it's what the readers will connect with. At least, that's my theory. And I think because of that, it makes it so hard to write.

David P. King said...

That's exactly my issue! Plot, setting, no problem. Keeping the characters truth ... I still don't know what the heck that means. Maybe one of these days we'll get lucky and figure it out by accident, right? :)

Lydia Kang said...

Character arcs. Definitely something I have to work harder at.

Kari Marie White | Writing By Heart said...

Plot and Character Arcs are my weakest points. I think I'm pretty good with characters and setting, but some people and places are easier to write than others, so sometimes even those are challenges. It makes me appreciate those times when the words keep flowing without much effort more.

Rusty Webb said...

I struggle with almost every aspect of writing. Yes, characterization among them. I firmly believe that recognizing our weaknesses help up get better though.

kmckendry said...

I have trouble making dialog natural. But I think as long as you realize your weakness you can work on improving it. Happy New Year!

alberta ross said...

I know my charaters inside out in my head - trying to translate onto the page - not so easy and conversation? well!1

The Golden Eagle said...

Lynda: I think your theory is right!

David: Maybe. :) One can always hope, I guess!

Lydia: Same here.

Kari: I love it when the words are there without too much effort. Though more often than not, I'll look over what I've produced and think it's all terrible. :P

Rusty: Oh, yeah, I'm the same. Definitely not saying my plots are fantastic, but characterization is the weakest for me.


Kmckendry: If you don't know what's broken, you can't fix it.

Happy New Year to you, too! :)

Alberta: I actually find conversation easier than overall character . . . but that's after years of working on it.