Elements of Fiction Writing - Characters & Viewpoint: Proven advice and timeless techniques for creating compelling characters by an a ward-winning author

Elements of Fiction Writing - Characters & Viewpoint: Proven advice and timeless techniques for creating compelling characters by an a ward-winning author

by Orson Scott Card

Paperback(Second Edition)

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Vivid and memorable characters aren't born: they have to be made

This book is a set of tools: literary crowbars, chisels, mallets, pliers and tongs. Use them to pry, chip, yank and sift good characters out of the place where they live in your imagination.

Award-winning author Orson Scott Card explains in depth the techniques of inventing, developing and presenting characters, plus handling viewpoint in novels and short stories. With specific examples, he spells out your narrative options—the choices you'll make in creating fictional people so "real" that readers will feel they know them like members of their own families.

You'll learn how to:

  •Draw characters from a variety of sources
  •Make characters show who they are by the things they do and say, and by their individual "style"
  •Develop characters readers will love—or love to hate
  •Distinguish among major characters, minor characters and walk-ons, and develop each appropriately
  •Choose the most effective viewpoint to reveal the characters and move the storytelling
  •Decide how deeply you should explore your characters' thoughts, emotions, and attitudes

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781599632124
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/18/2011
Series: Elements of Fiction Writing Series
Edition description: Second Edition
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 187,976
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Orson Scott Card is a novelist, critic, public speaker, essayist and columnist. He writes in several genres but is known best for science fiction. Card is the author of the international bestsellers Shadow of the Giant, Shadow Puppets, and of the beloved classic of science fiction, Ender's Game—which was adapted into a feature film. He is also the author of Seventh Son, the first book in the acclaimed fantasy series The Tales of Alvin Maker.


Greensboro, North Carolina

Date of Birth:

August 24, 1951

Place of Birth:

Richland, Washington


B.A. in theater, Brigham Young University, 1975; M.A. in English, University of Utah, 1981

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part I Inventing Characters 4

Chapter 1 What is a Character? 5

A Character Is What He Does


The Past




Habits and Patterns

Talents and Abilities

Tastes and Preferences


Chapter 2 What Makes a Good Fictional Character? 19

The Three Questions Readers Ask

You Are the First Audience

Interrogating the Character

From Character to Story, From Story to Character

Chapter 3 Where Do Characters Come From? 32

Ideas From Life

Ideas From the Story

Servants of the Idea


Chapter 4 Making Decisions 54


Keeping a Bible

Part II Constructing Characters 61

Chapter 5 What Kind of Story Are You Telling? 62

The "Mice" Quotient





The Contract With the Reader

Chapter 6 The Hierarchy 76

Walk-Ons and Placeholders

Minor Characters

Major Characters

Chapter 7 How to Raise the Emotional Stakes 87




Sexual Tension

Signs and Portents

Chapter 8 What Should We Feel About the Character? 96

First Impressions

Characters We Love

Characters We Hate

Chapter 9 The Hero and the Common Man 120

Chapter 10 The Comic Character: Controlled Disbelief 129

Doing a "Take"




Chapter 11 The Serious Character: Make Us Believe 137

Elaboration of Motive


The Remembered Past

The Implied Past


Chapter 12 Transformations 156

Why People Change

Justifying Changes

Part III Performing Characters 163

Chapter 13 Voices 164



Chapter 14 Presentation Vs. Representation 174

Chapter 15 Dramatic Vs. Narrative 182

Chapter 16 First-Person Narrative 186

Which Person Is First?

No Fourth Wall

Unreliable Narrators

Distance in Time

Withholding Information


Chapter 17 Third Person 202

Omniscient Vs. Limited Point of View

Making Up Your Mind

Levels of Penetration

Chapter 18 A Private Population Explosion 226

Index 228

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