Joyce Carol Oates at USF

Joyce Carol Oates at USF (Photo credit: shawncalhoun)

If you are a fiction writer, one of your major challenges is creating memorable characters. Think of your characters as the pillars of a structure.  If they are not strong, or don’t have the necessary qualities to support that plot, it’s likely to collapse. If your readers don’t care for your characters, especially the major ones, chances are they won’t care for your story either. Think of  a movie you saw that you really enjoyed. Why did you enjoy it? What do you remember about it? Of course, great acting may be one of the reasons you enjoyed the movie, but if the main character was weak, then the acting couldn’t do much to improve on it.

In my critique group, I get a lot of praise for my characters, even the lesser ones. I think it’s because I try to get to know them – their likes, dislikes, what makes them tick, what is likely to set them off – that sort of thing. When I began my first book in the Egypt series, I searched faces on the street and in magazines looking for the right faces to match my characters. I found that people in public gave me what I wanted more than magazine photos, for the simple reason that I could commit to memory their build, their gait, facial expression, mannerisms etc. Nothing gives me more pleasure than when my critiquing friends say, “I just love Marva,” or, “I just love David.”

In the video below, popular writer Joyce Carol Oates discusses how to create outstanding characters. Enjoy!

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