“Lost in page upon page of words, they’re endless and pointless. They bleed off of their page and into me, my skin, my bones, my mind.” This is an excerpt from Oae’s “Dreams and Other Tales.” Oae, like many fiction authors, impresses some with her characters, lack of continuous typos, interesting dialogue, and way of displaying her premise.
A good piece of fiction is formed from a carried out premise, three dimensional characters, realistic dialogue, and editing. There are other things that can help, such as knowing the landscape, cityscape, and layout of a character’s house and room, but people notice when there’s no premise, the characters are flat, the dialogue is improbable, and errors paint the pages. Lajos Egri discusses much of these things in his book “The Art of Dramatic Writing” and Stephen King covers the rest and more in his “On Writing.” The premise, the direction of the play; it isn’t the plot, but, rather, what the author wants to show and convince their audience. A premise is the basis of an argument (Oxford 802-803). Examples of this would be that an ill-temper leads to isolation, confusion leads to frustration, and that great love defies even death (Egri 1-30).
If they chose “confusion leads to frustration” they would pick a side, that is does or doesn’t, then show their belief to the reader. It is completely up to the author on how to show their premise to the reader. One might make it their turning point, have it as their moral, or even hidden between the lines of a conversation. It’s always best for an author to show the premise, if they have to tell their reader then they probably failed to convince them (Oae). An author can make their premise before their characters, which might help them make their characters.
If they chose to do this, they must remember that their characters have to be strong enough to carry and prove the premise. Some find it’s better when an author starts with their characters and is lead to the premise. Since the author has to create strong characters either way, it’s better to make the character’s themselves than make them for the premise. Characters are the building blocks of fiction. If an author has weak characters then their piece is bound to crumble. Strong characters are made of three things, physiology, sociology, and psychology.
Physiology is every thing about a character’s physical make up. This is their sex, age, weight, height, hair, eye, & skin color. It’s their head shape and body type, along with any burns, scars, and birthmarks (Egri 37). Any and all body piercings or tattoos are part of physiology. Whether a character is neat and tidy or messy and clumsy is part of their physiology.
Any diseases they have or bodily dysfunctions, such as irritable bowel syndrome. If the character is a mythical creature or not entirely human, as many fictional characters are, their non human traits should be included under physiology. This includes, but isn’t limited to: animal ears, bloodlust, fangs, fur, pointed ears, tails, and wings. Sociology is a character’s social standing. It’s their years of education, the quality of those years, the marks they received and their favorite, least favorite, best, and worst subjects. If a character’s upper, middle, or lower class should also be under their sociology.
It should have their religious and political views. A character’s occupation, their hours, income, working conditions, and if they are suited for their job is also part of their sociology. Their place in the community, member of church, volunteer, or so & so’s mother/father/daughter/son, and their place among their friends, the leader, silent observer, party-thrower, or whatever they may be should all be in sociology. A character’s home life, their siblings, parents, and their relationship with them should be included (Egri 37-38, 55-57). What a character listens to, in terms of music, is a mix of their sociology and psychology.
Psychology should have a character’s personal premise and ambition, so the author knows what pushes them forward. It should have all of their frustrations, likes, and dislikes. Likes and dislikes go from colors, food, books, and shows to people, places, and actions. Complexes, phobias, fears, obsessions, and inhibitions also go under a character’s psychology. Phobias are fears so strong they cause a person to shake, faint, or any other uncontrollable action; fears are simpler in the sense that they make a character uncomfortable, jumpy, or a little more anxious than they’d normally be. Their temperament, languages they speak, sex life, and moral standards are also part of psychology (Egri 37-38, 55-58).
Author’s have to remember not to rely on crutches like nervous ticks; it’s fine to have odd things and funny quirks, but don’t let them take over the story (Lisle). Lisle and Egri argue about when to do a character’s physiology. She believes that some authors will make the psychological details match with their experience with people of the described physiology. Some would like to believe that authors can be more open-minded than that, but authors should do what works for them. An author puts themselves on the page so that’s something to consider when making the characters (Bones). “Are you able to get into their head?” If not, they need to re-think their characters.
Asking oneself what they would do in the character’s situation can help, if they’re similar to their character (Tanemura). “If you’ve got enough free time to fantasize about your beautiful death, why don’t you just live your life beautifully to the end (Sorachi 151)?” Dialogue is important in stories because much of them takes place in what characters say and how they say it. Having fully formed characters makes the conversations more realistic. If they’re real, at least to the author, the characters conversations should be real. Their conversations and word choices should match their opinions on topics or at least their personalities. If one character likes another they may lie about their favorite color, band, or food to find a common ground with the other person.
Basic communication should be remembered when righting dialogue. Most people don’t speak in riddles and many don’t use complete sentences when talking. Depending on the character “Yeah” might be better than “Yes.” Tone of voice should also be considered. When building a relationship between characters, authors should remember that most people in the world don’t suddenly become best friends after just a conversation or two. Friendship and bonding takes time; one must always start with the initiation stage, small talk, then experimenting, looking for common ground, before intensifying, expressing their emotions, (Darensbourg).
In dialogue, an author should remember the importance of nonverbal communication. Gestures, proxemics, haptics, and paralanguage are all apart of communication so they should at least be referenced to occasionally. Gestures are things like hand movements, rolling ones eyes, and waving. Most people tend to over exaggerate their gestures or they don’t use many, if any at all. Proxemics is the space and distance between two people, the greater the distance the less intimate their relationship is.
When people willingly stand within a foot or less of another people assume they’re close. Haptics would be any kind of physical contact, stroking someone’s arm, moving their hair from their face, holding hands, and shaking hands. This is an important part of flirting because even children will make physical contact when flirting. Paralanguage is any non-symbolic vocal utterance made; these are things like “Um” and “Uh,” which have no actual meaning, but are included in the conversation (Darensbourg). Real people don’t always know what to say, so how could characters? If they’re real, they’ll have faults too.
Authors should continuously read their work and look for errors. Simple things like run-ons and coma splices should be revised. They should also look for cliches and avoid naming places things like “The Valley of Death,” especially if there actually is a lot of death there (TV Tropes). Giving a character a nickname like “Dagger” because they’re great with a dagger is one thing; naming them “Dagger” at birth for no reason isn’t so good. Every author has at least one part of a piece that absolutely love, they think it’s perfect and that it has to be left as it—they’re probably wrong. An author has to remember to kill their darlings, revise it, edit it, or remove it completely (Letkiewicz).
The “Second Draft” of a book should be the first draft with 10% less writing (King). This causes the author to really focus on their message and word choice. “Life is tragic, it is painful, there are parts too hard for some to bear, but that’s just how it is (Oae)” fiction should be the same. Even stories with happy endings have sad moments. Anyone can write, but not everyone can write well.
To write a good piece of fiction, an author must know their characters, have realistic discussions, edit constantly, and have a purpose for their piece. One could spend ages on a book, but the longer they take the more foreign the material can become to them (King). An author should remember themselves and that they exist in their pieces, just as real as their characters are. Fiction is as wide in variety as its authors; writing a fair piece comes from putting oneself into the piece. Writing a great one comes from using oneself in the characters, the dialogue, believing in the premise, and editing.