08 April 2008

Character Stands Out! Tips for writing characters

Tip for Writers #2 - Tertiary Characters

I'm not talking about how to write a great character. I'm talking about tertiary characters. In other words, when a husband and his girlfriend are arguing in a subway, there are a bunch of people who watch and stare. When the husband threatens her, a man stands up and defends her. This man serves a purpose. It makes us aware of the escalation of the husband's argument. That's all this character should do. We do not need to know the emotional history of this man. We are interested in the emotional history of the husband. And maybe the girlfriend. Anything else will take away from the story of the protagonist and act to distract us.

Also, regarding poetry, many writers write from the first person perspective. There are some great poems with and about characters, or from the perspective of characters. You might want to have your character who is drinking away his depressions after his wife left him bump into a man on the street. He then gets angry at the man, or maybe he starts to cry and explain his sorrows. This will show us how drunk he is. Or maybe your poem is about a spoon and a necessary tertiary character is the napkin the spoon is resting on.

Whether you're writing poetry or fiction keep looking toward character. It doesn't matter if you're writing experimental literature or sci-fi. People love characters.

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