These two veteran editors/writers don't sugar coat anything.
I learned a lot from this book about writing. Now, I am rereading their advice on character creation and have rediscovered some helpful and yes, harsh advice. These are characterizations to avoid from the book, which could also be called
the most forgettable and nauseating characters ever:
1. None of the characters have to work for a living.
2. All of the characters are celibate.
3. The characters, even the protagonists, have sock puppet personas.
4. Character descriptions sound as if they are being read from police reports.
5. Characters are described while looking in a mirror or looking at a photo of themselves.
6. Characters are described as looking like celebrities.
7. Too much emphasis is put on describing the clothes characters are wearing. (The authors call this, "The Joan Rivers Pre-Novel Special.")
Guilty As Charged
Yikes! I know I am guilty of committing at least four of the above mistakes (that I'll readily admit to in public). It is especially hard at first, not to describe characters like suspects in a criminal investigation. "She was a pretty, slender blonde around average height for a woman." "He was tall with green eyes and brown hair."
And it is also so tempting to write, "She was as reckless as Lindsay Lohan." Or, "He looked like a young Sean Connery." If you really want to make your characters look and act like certain celebrities do, don't be lazy about it. Describe them so adeptly that your readers come to the conclusion, "She's just like Drew Barrymore," by themselves!
When I read Mittelmark and Newman's advice on not describing characters while having them promenade in front of a mirror, I sighed. This writing thing is just not that easy! I will persevere, though, because the rewards of writing a good novel with some unforgettable characters far out-weigh the growing pains it takes to produce them. How about you?
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