Another great book in a must have series of books2007/3/30
I picked up what I thought would be a rehashing of old material covered in other books on the same subject, but The Great Fiction series of books continues to impress and surprise.
So many books on creating characters speak to their physical description, wants, motives and give the character a background. This book goes a step further and tells you how to do those things and hits the key point of showing emotion.
In addition, chapter Eight titled "Talking About Emotion -- Dialogue and Thoughts" was worth the price of the book alone.
Other great topics were "Showing Change in Your Characters" and "Frustration -- The Most Useful Emotion in Fiction."
Like the other books in the series, Appendix A recaps the author's critical points. Thus for the impatient reader, jump to this appendix and read what the book is about. For those of us who enjoy the journey of the reading the previous 200+ pages, the appendix is a nice summary.
Overall, this felt like the first book that brought all the concepts of characterization into one place and provided me with an easy to follow roadmap to creating, deepening and SHOWING my characters off in my story.
My recommended characterization plan: 1) Read this book as a guide on how to breath life into your characters and what you are trying to accomplish with your characters. (Characters are not there by accident!)
2) Pick up The Marshall Plan of Novel Writing by Evan Marshal or First Draft in 30 Days by Karen Weisner. Both of these books take many of the concepts listed in this book and put them into templates and forms you can fill out to plot your novel
3) Write. Write. Write.
Don't do what I did and spend the last ten years reading more on writing than actually writing. Get that first 1 million words written asap!! While you are doing it, read this book, which has found a permanent place on my book shelf as a handy reference and reminder of what makes a successful cast of characters.
Extremely well delivered advice2005/5/29
As a beginning writer working on my first novel I'm constantly searching for "the book" on a particular facet of writing. As a general book for beginners, Gotham Writer's Workshop is great. However, this book takes its subject topics and provides insights that can be immediately applied to one's writing. Her chapters on point of view (POV) provide explanations that I have not found in other books. The chapters on character emotion are also very well written.
Buy this book, read it once through without doing the exercises. Then read it again, doing the exercises. You won't regret it.
Should become a standard text for writers2005/4/23
Nancy Kress has raised the bar on fiction instruction with this book. Each chapter is thoughtful and clear, with examples from recent works and loads of concrete advice for solving problems. Her sequence moves logically from characterization to depicting emotions, finishing with the most complete and intelligent discussion of viewpoint that I have found anywhere. She examines such difficult issues as when to use certain viewpoints and how to make them more effective. Her discussion of emotion shows how to make the characters deeper and richer while avoiding cliche and other pitfalls, all with good humor but demanding standards. This is among the best books on writing fiction that I've found anywhere. Writers and teachers of writing should all check it out.
Very informative and easy to read2006/2/20
This is a great overview on creating characters. The author is clearly very knowledgeable, and the writing is never dry. This book continues the trend of the series of including exercises to practice what you've learned. My only complaint is that it doesn't always go into quite enough depth. I realize, though, that the book was designed to be a quick overview and in that respect it works very well. I recommend this book for newer writers aiming at improving their technique.
Another Solid Entry in the "Write Great Fiction" Series.....But....2008/8/5
An Android Fan
This book is a good resource for looking at how characters, the emotions they portray and in what viewpoint (first person, third person omniscient, third person limited, etc) to use, and it certainly complements the other books quite nicely. I have read all of the "WGF" books save for the one on revision and see them all as a great investment.
For this particular book, Nancy Kress does do a good job of exploring each element in detail. Like the other books, it is largely an overview of each concept, and, like the other books, she does hit on some similar aspects that the other books cover more extensively (how could she not? All aspects work together to create a work of fiction.) That is to say, the other Write Great Fiction books all cover every aspect of a piece of fiction, but mainly discuss how they relate to the given topic they wrote their respective book about. So brief overviews are found in the other books and each aspect is covered extensively in the given work. So "Plot" focuses on plot while giving smaller and more general explanations of characters, description, dialogue, etc. while "Dialogue" does the same with plot, description, characters etc. while keeping the focus on dialogue and so on and so forth. I would recommend a would-be author grab all four of these books, as this would then allow them to see the whole picture.
My main problem with this particular book is that when she gets to the section where she delves deeply into first person, at one point at least she goes into a small rabbit trail about why some readers don't like and will never read first person. Apparently they're willing to read books but not willing to suspend their disbelief that the character narrating the work was an active participant. It makes absolutely no sense to me but I am not going to judge these people. My problem with this is that she goes a little bit longer talking about this than what the situation merits, spending at least a page or two on the subject, yet she says NOTHING of authors who write their books in the present tense, even though this style is easily as equally jarring and disengaging as first person, actually more so in my opinion. Why she ignores the pitfalls of writing in present tense yet shows the pitfalls of first person, second person, third person, first person plural, third person plural, multiple first person, multiple third person, hybrid, (and there's more but you get the point,) is beyond me.
All in all a good book and I would recommend it.
Edit on Saturday February 14th: I would also recommend "The Complete Writers Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes" by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever and Sue Viders.