Friday, May 27, 2011

Characters and Crying.

Rachelle Gardner has a post about creating strong characters.  While she says at the end these are not rules or a checklist that agents use she has some really good points about making well rounded characters. 

Some of my favorite points:
Characters need to be active.  I like this because my characters tend to do a lot of thinking.  Which is not bad, but they need to act on their thoughts. 

A reader needs to know how a character draws conclusions.  Ever read a book when a character suddenly figure something out and you don't have a clue how they jumped to that conclusion?  I have.  I had to go back and read the last page to see if I missed something, I hadn't.  It made it hard to follow any part of the plot associated with that thought because I was vexed and suspicious.

She also said to avoid overstated emotion.  Her own rule of thumb is that the protag should only cry once.  My protag cries a couple times but never in a weeping, wailing, overdone way.  

There are a lot of other good suggestions  and I recommend giving the post a peruse. 

What is your character advice? And just out of curiosity, what do you think about protags crying?  Does it mean they're weak, or human?


  1. That was a really good post! I need to fix one of my minor characters big-time. This provided some nice pointers for doing so.

    I'm annoyed if a protag cries too often, even under very trying circumstances. Or maybe I'm just annoyed by a whiny protag, and whiny protags end up weepy a lot.

    I think the only time you can really pull off the above is in very looooong books, or series, etc.

    So far my MC has only pulled out the waterworks once, and it only received a few words' mention. It didn't need any more - what was happening in the scene was carrying all the emotion for her. At least in this draft. [g]

    She might bust out the tears again at one other point, but if she does, it would be earned (I hope). She seems like the type that would endure life-altering trauma without batting an eyelash and keep it repressed until one tiny thing makes her lose it.

    Ironically, I used to write a lot of angsty stuff when I did fanfiction. I think I still have it in me, too -- but I tend to glaze over when characters go on long emotional diatribes, so I think that should be a sign for what I should avoid in my work. [g]

  2. Glad you enjoyed the link.

    Skimming over anything in books is definitely a sign you probably shouldn't write it.

  3. A friend of mine is an actor and she told me of this exercise she had to do in class once.
    Take an emotion, any emotion, lets say anger, and act it out as big as possible, a full-blown rage, a hissy fit, spoiled princess tantrum ... you get the picture.

    Then they had to make it as small as possible, like a single raised eyebrow. The trick was to make the gestures express the same thing, anger.

    I take this into my writing, and get each character to express their traits as big and as small as possible. What I found was that each character settled into their own place on this spectrum. Worked nine times out of ten. There's always one character who absolutely refuses to peg their squares into round holes.

    I reckon there's nothing wrong with a weak protag, just so long as they get their sh*t together by the end of the story arc. Or at least grow a little.

  4. Interesting exercise, and one I think I'll keep around.

    I agree I'm more about the protag growing than being a specific way.

  5. Sara,
    I have a work around for the commenting problem.

    If you get signed out, unclick the keep me signed in box. Who know why that works.

  6. Good to see you can comment. I did get signed out and it has been working since then. Go figure.

  7. I wonder if crying is okay if it's maybe just mentioned in passing? I don't like whiny characters either, but it would seem odd to me, I think, of something emotional was being heard or discussed and there was no mention of tears at all...

  8. I hope so since my character cries a couple times.