Monday, September 9, 2013

Two Aids in Creating Memorable Characters by James R. Callan

Happy Monday! Did you spend any time reading this weekend? Hi everyone, Annette here. I just finished reading a memorable historical, full of vivid characters. Today's guest is here to help with one element of creating memorable characters, an element that helps readers picture these fictional people. Read on!

Two Aids in Creating Memorable Characters
by James R. Callan

Earlier in 2013, my book on character development, Character: The Heart of the Novel, was published by Oak Tree Press. The main theme of the book was: Create memorable characters. Here are two ways to help in the endeavor:

If you’re writing fiction, you need to use metaphors and similes. Why? Because you need to develop characters that your readers long to tell their friends about. “You’ve got to read this book. You’ll (love, hate, laugh at, cry about, want to marry, want to kill—pick one) this character, (supply name here).”

So, what do I mean by metaphors and similes in fiction?

“John had big ears.” That’s not going to make John memorable. “John had large ears.” Nope. No better. “John had huge ears.” A tiny bit better. “John’s ears looked like weather balloons attached to his head.” That’s a simile—comparing two dissimilar items, such as comparing ears to weather balloons, and using the word “like” or “as.” Which description are you going to remember? Sure, it’s a gross exaggeration, but it gets the idea across and in a memorable way.

“Wally’s hand was a catcher’s mitt.” That is a metaphor—the comparison of two things that are in general not alike, without using “like” or “as.” The reader knows this guy didn’t really have a catcher’s mitt for a hand. But the reader knows very clearly, this guy had big hands, exceptionally big hands. Your reader will remember that feature about him. You, the author, can use that fact later in the book to good advantage. And guess what? The reader will remember.

“Her eyes were like sapphires cut to catch the light and sparkle.” Simile. (Her eyes were like…) “His eyes were lasers, the kind that cut through steel.” Metaphor. (His eyes were …) “He was only five feet tall, but his feet were as big as a seven foot giant’s.” Simile.

Can you overdo the use of metaphor and simile? You most certainly can. They should be like the habaƱera: not used on everything, and not used too much. (Simile.)

Remember, one of your goals is to develop memorable characters. Similes and metaphors can help make a character memorable.


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About the author:

After a successful career in mathematics and computer science, receiving grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA, and being listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science and Two Thousand Notable Americans, James R. Callan turned to his first love—writing.  He wrote a monthly column for a national magazine for two years, and published several non-fiction books.  He now concentrates on his favorite genre, mystery/suspense, with his fifth book released in 2013.

About the book:

CHARACTER: The Heartbeat of the Novel.  A guide to Character Development. Learn How To... Sculpt your major characters, Create the bio, Develop motivation and conflict, Maximize The Fourth Dimension (The character Arc), Write effective Dialog  ...and MORE!

  

2 comments:

  1. Great article and reminders, James. I think metaphors and similes should just snap and pop, and therefore be rare! Too many are like a jingle in your head that doesn't stop.

    The weather balloons made me laugh.

    That said, I wish you lived closer so you, a computer guy I see, could get my wireless printer connected. We just switched to Verizon and everything says its connected. NOT.

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  2. Thanks, Tanya, for the comment. You're right. Too much is ... too much. But, "like the habanera" they add spice. Good luck on your wireless printer. With computers, the simplest things can tie you up for days or weeks.

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