About Me

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My work can be found in REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, The Jabberwock Review, The Emerson Review, Storyglossia, The MacGuffin, Confrontation, Passages North, SmokeLong Quarterly, elimae, wigleaf, Pank, New Delta Review, and Gargoyle #57, among others. One of my stories has been translated into Farsi by Asadollah Amraee, and many others by Jalil Jafari, two of which have been published in the Iranian journal, Golestaneh Magazine. Currently, I'm an Associate editor for Narrative Magazine. In 2011, I was awarded the Carol Houck Smith Contributor Scholarship for the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Have Your Characters Do Something

Mary Akers offered this link to an article by Laura Miller: A Reader's Advice to Writers. It's a great article but the one thing that resonated most with me was: Make your main character do something.

Oh. Yeah.

You see, I have a hard time with this one. Probably because I'm not much of an outrageous, interesting, doer in my own life. I do things, of course, but I don't protest naked, I don't punch people, I don't spy on my ex-wife, and I don't set fires. So I notice, usually between my first and fifth draft, my character is thinking about things and usually taking the high road. SNORE.
Now I thought I'd learned this point already, but it wasn't until I read this article and I looked at the story I'm working on that I realized, Oops, I've done it again. So now I'm off to give my character a kick in the butt--or maybe not, since he packs a mean punch.

10 comments:

Laura Ellen Scott said...

I realized that in terms of "doing things" my preference can get even more defined--that is, I like stories where characters make informed decisions and act, even if that action seems self destructive or non productive.

A student of mine wrote a story where a soldier decides to smoke a cigarette even though he knows lighting up puts him in grave danger on a night mission. The character was in no way a fool, which was what made the choice + action fascinating.

katrina said...

Good point, Laura Ellen.

Ee Leen Lee said...

great post
the worst is when characters are sitting around drinking tea

Sue said...

Great post, Kat! I've also found that when a character is on the edge of doing something radical - in other words, we don't know if they will or won't - that can be fantastic stuff too. All about holding the moment, I guess, which is what my writing group always cry out when critiquing my work: "Slow down, Williams, slow down!"

katrina said...

Ee Leen: Oh gosh. I confess my characters like tea as much as I.

Sue: Yes! Good point. I do like ambiguity and that moment of teetering....

Susan Woodring said...

Oh, is this ever great advice for me. I feel like all my characters ever do is sit around a kitchen table talking. They drink coffee, more often than tea, and their gestures are all about the coffee: they stir, they blow into their coffee mugs to cool them, they pick their mugs up. They set them down, then say something profound.
Must get them away from that table...

katrina said...

Oh, yes, Susan!! But ALL of my female characters drink tea rather than coffee. Hmm....could this be because the writer drinks tea as well? ;)

katrina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan Woodring said...

Yes, mine probably drink coffee because I do, and what's worse: I'm drinking coffee while I'm writing. Close at hand, too easy!!

katrina said...

Susan,

Maybe one of your characters can invite one of my characters over and introduce her to a cup of coffee. Maybe they can also discuss something entertainingly scandalous while sitting at the table. :)

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