In my blog I will frequently publish a ‘writing tidbit’ which will be something I’ve learned about writing and storytelling while I’ve been researching and going to school. So you can learn off of me! How you use the knowledge I share is up to you, but I think its a win win situation for you buggers. I pay the dough and go to college and you get all I learn. I will publish a writing Tidbit every Saturday, and once in a while I’ll through in an extra just for fun, so stay tuned! I’ll aim to post something everyday.
Sidenote, all you grammer nazi’s: this is a blog and I’m not a perfectionist. If I make a mistake (like use the wrong ‘your’), please don’t nag me.
Writing Tidbit #1 is one of the most important things about storytelling that I have discovered. I hold it dear to my heart. It is simply this:
Stories are about Characters.
We love characters. Characters are the heart of every story whether they are a tree stump or a young orphan wizard with crazy hair and knobbly knees. But they are the medium in which all conflict is made. You can’t have conflict (and therefore plot), without characters. Characters are EVERYTHING. Characters are also what we readers use to get connected to a story and it is them who the reader get’s attached to—not the awesome magic system, not the cool description, and not even the epic battle of orcs. If you need proof of this, just look up fanfiction! Some of the stories there have NOTHING to do with the original canon plot. The only reason they are there is because the crazed writer took out the characters and put them into the writer’s own, original plot. That’s why you get a bunch of stupid high school dramas with Inuyasha in it. I mean, really? But it shows something very important about the way people think, and that is: it’s the characters they fall in love with. Stories are characters.
There is several reasons for this. Part of it is because of how we work as humans. Stories are reflections of ourselves. If we can’t see ourselves in it, we don’t get involved with it. For example, if I wrote a story about how an apple was sitting on the counter with no personification at all (meaning no human characteristics given to the apple or the counter), it would be, not only a very boring story, but an unrelatable one as well. We wouldn’t be able to find anything to attach ourselves to, to understand, or to emphasize with. Characters are stories. Stories are characters.
So, naturally, you’d see that characterization and how you use your characters is the most important thing to consider when building your story.
Part of the job in making good characterization or at least good character conflict (and in turn stories), is becoming a connoisseur of human nature. As a writer, a healthy obsessive interest in why people do the things they do and why people are…well, people is a very important thing. The best stories come from those who have a powerful intuition for people. It’s why we English Majors are okay with stuff like critical theory and philosophy and writing reviews that make people cry (muwahahaha). A great way to becoming a great writer is to become a great observer of people. It’s not something someone can learn in five minutes, however. It takes a lifetime of habitual asking questions and working to learn and understand.
But, for all you shy guys, don’t let that get you down! You can start today! And you may know more about people than you think! Unless you’ve been locked away from humanity all your life by your crazy evil mother…yeah, let’s not go there.
Hope that helps!