Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Robust


  1. (of a person, animal, or plant) Strong and healthy; vigorous.
  2. (of an object) Sturdy in construction.

I was still writing the first draft of BOOKEND last year, feeding chapters to my crit group that I'd only just finished. It was not the best way to handle the situation because it meant that I was drafting and revising at the same time. Not the way I like to do things, I found out. But there was one time where it did work out best.
I'd just written this scene in the woods. Two female characters are talking. Now, I'm not the best with dialogue tags at the best of times, but when Greg and Laura read the scene they both said. "I'm sorry, I couldn't figure out who was talking." 

It wasn't because of the tags this time, though. They knew technically who was saying what, but the character's voices, their personalities seemed interchangeable. This was a serious blow. Both girls are strong, but they're very different characters in my mind. The fact that my CP's couldn't tell was a big problem. When I looked back, I saw that I hadn't made one of these characters robust enough. You could throw a couple of adjectives around her but she wasn't sturdy. She couldn't withstand being close to another stronger character and not suffer by comparison. 

Luckily, I was still writing the first draft and I could change course easily. It taught me a lesson, though, not to take characters for granted - especially the secondary characters that are so vital for moving plot along. Each character needs to be vigorous enough to stand next to your MC and not wilt.

Not what you want in a character


  1. This is something that I've been thinking about a lot lately. I think it's really important to have characters that can be easily distinguished from one another even in their dialogue. I read Ally Condie's Crossed recently, which is told from two POVs, and I felt that this was it's greatest failing. I couldn't for the life of me keep straight whose POV I was reading at any given time. I had to keep looking back to the start of the chapter to find out. Yikes. Especially bad considering the POVs were from a guy and a girl. I didn't hate the book, but I felt this was a problem.

    It was certainly food for thought when it came to my own writing.

    1. So interesting - I haven't read Crossed. I tried Matched but didn't love it so kind of gave up. If someone has a compelling reason for me to keep at it, please do tell me. I so wanted to like that series. Anyway, did you feel the same way with the POV switch in Beth Revis' Across the Universe? That one is male/female and I didn't have any trouble distinguishing the personalities. Hmmm.
      Anyway, I totally agree, it's something subtle but important!

  2. Very good advice. I'm always worried about whether my characters are strong enough, or if they all seem alike.


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