Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Take the snowflake test. Is your character unique?
A lovesick coworker stalked me for six years. A close relative died in prison. I was sold a fully stocked bookstore for only one dollar.
Do these events make me unique? Maybe. Maybe not. It might be that I only drink tea on every third Monday and then it has to be a blend of green and rasberry. (Not really!)
But if a dozen books came out on the shelves about women who have been stalked— and I wanted to write another one—it might not matter how unique I made my character. Unless maybe I came up with a new twist.
In the self-editing course I’m taking this month with Author Camy Tang, she reminds us to create unique characters. Too many writers create unforgettable ones. Too many create characters that have been done a dozen times or lack that little spark of uniqueness.
I had difficulty thinking how the character in my current WIP is unique. I almost wanted to toss the entire book.
But then it struck me. The woman loves magnolias. Every summer when her father drops her off at his friend’s cottage, she rushes to pick the biggest blossoms to set on the dinner table that first night. She leans over her upper porch railing into the morning air to inhale their sweet fragrance. She loves the trees and what they symbolize for her—a family. When a tornado later destroys them, it nearly destroys her as well. I had to develop this theme and carry it throughout the entire book.
Think about a person you won’t ever forget. What about them makes them so different from other people you know?
Now think about the character you’re developing. What makes them unique?