Quotes  |  Creating Great Characters

I am often asked for advice on writing and I encourage others to write down their stories. Below you will find some of my thoughts on how to approach writing and how to create great characters.

Here are some quotes from other authors, which I try to keep in mind when I write. I included my ch quote.

"Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything good."

—William Faulkner

I am often faced with people who say to me, "I love to write, but I'm not any good at it." Or, "I was trying to write a novel, but it was really bad, so I stopped." Writing is like any other skill; it requires practice. If you play baseball, you probably won't hit a home run your first time. You probably won't make a perfect soufflé the first time you walk in the kitchen. And you probably won't write the Great American Novel the first time you set pen to paper. You can only learn to write by doing it.

"Convince yourself that you are working in clay, not marble, on paper not eternal bronze: Let that first sentence be as stupid as it wishes."

—Jacques Barzun

This quote hits a similar point to the last. Just do it. Don't stress over how you're going to start the prologue when you have beautiful ideas for the third chapter. Don't worry about the first word so much that you never write it. Start with, "It was a dark and stormy night" if doing so allows you to pass the first sentence. You can always go back and change it. Remember, professional writers don't write perfect stories every time; even they edit, revise, rewrite, scrape, and toil. They move chapters around, delete pieces, add scenes they forgot, and sometimes rearrange the book entirely. Don't stress—write.

"I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means."

—Joan Didion

Where do I get my ideas? Writing has always been, to me, a way of interacting with the world on a different level. I write when I'm angry; I write when I'm happy; I write when I'm depressed. Writing is for me a way of communicating not only with others but with myself. The keyboard is my medium for painting the world around me. What I'm thinking, what I see, what I hear, what I do, and who I meet; I write it all.

"Writing at any stage should always be thought of as a process of discovering as well as creation."

—Edgar V. Roberts

Ever hear the expression, "Write what you know"? My version says, "Write what you want to know." If you want to know about the history of Spain, write about the history of Spain—nonfiction or fiction. If you are fascinated by the old West, maybe your character lives there; maybe he wants to be there, or his family became wealthy there a long time ago.

Beyond setting, let yourself discover your character. Don't treat him like a doll to be assembled, in easy-to-recognize pieces right away. Let writing be a way to learn about him: what he loves, where he's been, who he knows, what he fears. Allow yourself to be fascinated. It's the key to writing something others want to read, and beyond that, it's the key to writing something you want to continue.

A story isn't a charcoal sketch, where every stroke lies on the surface to be seen. It's an oil painting, filled with layers that the author must uncover so carefully to show its beauty.

—Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Creating Great Characters

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