All About Soul
The youngling brought home a book about a character who’d been mashed with a bookcase or something and was completely flat. You’ve probably heard of or read the story yourself. It’s a cute set of stories, actually. I like them.
But it got me thinking. Sometimes as authors, we get so wrapped up in the thing we’re trying to write that we totally neglect the character.
I heard that collective gasp.
What I mean is this, we get so involved in writing a ménage and more, more meaning a LOT more, or a cause like say a person who rescues animals or something and the essence of the character gets a little lost. We’re all guilty of it. We get a focus and want to make sure that thread of the story is prevalent. But it’s the balance between cause and letting the character be a pill that’s tough.
Who wants to read about a character without soul, unless it’s a demon or zombie?
Even if the character is essentially bad, which there are many, I want to know he or she has a soul. I want to know there is a reason why they did whatever they did. Sure, I want a story with a message. Those are great. But if there’s more emphasis on the act of having sex with eight guys and the actual story is a tad thin, makes me wonder.
There are some authors out there who can strike a fantastic balance between heat, heart, and cause. You read the book and you can’t put it down. Even if it’s four in the morning, you’re glad you’re going to run on caffeine and adrenaline in the morning because the story was that good. Those books you can’t wait until the next comes out because you can’t let go of them and you’re hoping the author brings them back for a secondary role. The ones who feel like they are in the same room with you. Those characters had souls, even the demons, zombies, and such.
I love those books.
When I set out to write, it wasn’t a specific day. I didn’t sit at the computer and say, today, I’m writing the best novel the world has ever seen. I had characters I wanted to share with the world. I’ve fallen into the trap of trying to write a story based on a cause, not a character. Let me tell you, it was a full on, five alarm disaster. I got comments from the crit partners like “the characters are so flat”, “the plot is great, but I can’t ‘see’ the hero”.
But I learned from those comments. The cause is great, as long as it’s balanced with strong characters to pull it off. Wimpy, simpy characters won’t carry a cause any more than a cause will carry an entire book.
That’s why I’m glad I have crit partners. They see the things I don’t. They pick out the characters who don’t have soul and help me realize where I need to inject a little tension.
What have you learned from your crit partners? What would you share with an up and coming author to make their work shine? I’m all ears.