The Fiction Code

vet-man.jpgI was going through my notes the other day and came across this  piece of writing advice I’d saved. When I first stumbled across it, it felt like the cracking of a code. Unfortunately, I don’t remember where I found it or who wrote it, but it’s so good, I just have to pass it on: 

     “In fiction, many authors get into serious trouble by writing as an author, instead of writing as a character. Your job is to inhabit your characters’ lives, not report on them. Become your characters. Your goal falls more in line with method acting than reporting.

     You have to strive to see the world through your character’s eyes. What details and events will your character focus on?

     Take on a fictional persona and write through that mask. Lose the burden of being clever or lyrical in your writing–unless your character is clever or lyrical. And don’t have all your characters be equally clever or lyrical.”

Maybe this is old news to you, but it was a revelation to me. It’s also probably the error I see most often when editing my own and others’ work — well, that and writing in complete scenes. But that’s a topic for another post.

Write on!

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4 thoughts on “The Fiction Code

  1. Elizabeth,

    Your advice on characterization is profound. The analogy to method acting really helped put things in perspective for me. I often write in third person, so the text often feels like reporting. By keeping more of a first person POV in my head, I’ll be able to get more into the character.

    Thanks for sharing those notes!

    Diana

  2. Excellent advice! You know, that’s why I have to make the world go away when I’m writing — to really get into deep POV, I need total immersion in my characters.

    That’s also why I’ll probably never write more than two books a year. You can only get away with that kind of immersion for so many months out of the year.

  3. Great advice, Betty. I struggle with that issue in my own writing. Of course, a lot of that is because the book I’m writing now is inspirational and there are certain restrictions I have to follow, which I don’t like at all. To me, that is not portraying life realistically.

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