I’ve gotten a fair bit of feedback from the short stories I’ve put out for critique. On the one hand, I hear flattering things about my writing, which is nice. People seem to appreciate the mystery aspect of the stories. But I hear some of the same criticisms over and over: the characters are not well-drawn, even the protagonist is fairly 2D. I’ve tried a number of times to make my characters more interesting, but I’m finding that I don’t entirely have the knack, at least not when I’m feeling constrained. I wonder sometimes whether “trying to make them more interesting” means that I’ve already missed the boat: would I be better off reimagining the story with more interesting characters and then writing that story? Anything I add now would be, almost by definition, an afterthought.

There is lots of advice out there for things to keep in mind, and I have a collection of links of good advice(though perhaps not as applicable for some of my stories). The estimable Chuck Wendig has also given practical advice on the subject, which I’ve been trying out. The interviewing technique I experimented with earlier has been good for working out plot issues, I think if I let the ‘interviews’ range further afield I might get better characterization results.

Anyway, haven’t solved the problem by a long shot, but I figured I’d update as I haven’t in a while. Oh, and I realized that afternoon that I need to ditch the chapter I wrote, as it is dull.

3 thoughts on “Characterization

  1. Have you ever tried, as an exercise, writing stories featuring people you actually know? I am not a fiction writer but if I had this problem I think it’s how I’d approach it.

    If your subjects should discover themselves in your, er, short stories a clef, I will deny all responsibility for this idea.

    1. Sure, that’s a tried-and-true method. Some of my characters are based on people I know (including one of my favorite minor characters of mine), and I think that those characters do work better, but I don’t know enough murderers. Wait, that came out wrong. I don’t have enough of a “cast” to fill the roles I need, maybe?

      1. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that such an idea would already be in common practice :).

        but I don’t know enough murderers.
        Well, perhaps it’d be interesting to try to figure out what would turn someone you know into a murderer. Though that sounds more like plot generation than characterization.

        I guess it is true that most people don’t have a huge stock of fully 3d people in their minds, since most people we interact with we just don’t get to know that well. That’s sort of sad when I think about it. But everybody is probably 3d to somebody.

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