I went to a literature panel entitled “Writing Unforgettable Characters” featuring Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Joe Lansdale, Carrie Patel, and Bev Vincent.
Well, Joe Lansdale kind of took over the Q&A in the best way possible. The others had some insights, but Joe exuded this pragmatic writing presence. A manuscript messiah miasma. Predatory parable pheromones.
A few of his best points:
- The writer gives 50% of the story. The reader brings in the rest.
- Some think character is giving someone a cane or an eye patch. That if they’re from Mars or were raised by Indians, they’re interesting. Don’t confuse oddity for character. When writing character, you need to think of motive. Why they do stuff. There’s Surface Motive. What they tell themselves is their Motive. And True Motive.
- Characters must intrigue. They don’t have to be likable, just interesting.
- When writing, there has to be music in the prose. Otherwise you’re just lining up turd after turd. Hemingway had a masculine poetry. Fitzgerald had a magical poetry. Learn how to combine rhythm, style, and character into the poetry of prose.