February 26, 2014
Characters, Emotions, & Viewpoint
Your first highly selective handful of query letters to literary agents resulted in a few boilerplate turndowns. Most agents didn't even respond. Your second tier choices produced more turndowns and more non-responses. Your third barrage of tree saving groveling hit everyone on the AAR membership list. This produced four or five requests for partial manuscripts from entry level staffers. The responses went roughly as follows: your characters are not believable; your characters have no feelings; your characters have no emotions; their actions are inconsistent with their characters; they are not empathetic; the reader simply doesn't care. You, dear writer, are ready for Nancy Kress's "Write Great Fiction - Characters, Emotion, & Viewpoint," published by Writer's Digest Books.
You will learn, perhaps for the first time (as this reviewer did) how compelling fiction gets so compelling. The epiphany: the reader experiences the world through someone else's mind. It is fiction, and only fiction, which creates this illusion. These other-mind experiences are the soul of the writer's craft, yet they are the most neglected by novice writers. Ms. Kress will show you how to develop a strong sense of your characters' pasts. She will convince you that it is your character's story, not yours. You will learn the importance of frustration to character and to plot, and that the main expression of frustration is action. You will learn how to create characters who change and those who don't, and how to "validate" characters' permanent changes. You will learn how character change must come only in response to scenes you've crafted into the story. You will learn to start with mini bios for your characters to serve as templates. Eventually the mechanics will become second nature.
Master the lessons; do the chapter-end exercises, create mini bios, and put yourself into the character's head. Then edit better characters into your manuscript and try again with the literary agents. Your chances will have improved.