Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Editor Devil's Guide to Characters by Christine Fairchild

Like most writers I know, I have a shelf full of reference books on various aspects of writing, from setting, to dialogue, to characters, to plot, and so on. We, as writers, are always looking for that edge that will make our writing sharper, stronger, and richer. Writing is one of those professions where the learning and growing continues over time. For all the books I have on writing, though, I tend to revisit certain ones over and over when I need help in getting my story right.

I have a feeling that Christine Fairchild's The Editor Devil's Guide to Characters will be joining them. When Christine announced on the loops I belonged to that she had her guides up, I ran over to Amazon to take a look. They sounded useful and relevant and I picked up not only her guide on characters but also her guide on dialogue (The Editor Devil's Guide to Dialogue).

I'm only in Lesson 2 of her Character's book, but already I feel like I'm getting so much out of it. With in the first pages I had an "aha" moment. You know, when something suddenly clicks. I'm a big believer in Debra Dixon's GMC, but I always get tangled up when I'm working on the internal motivation. The reason the reason the character wants this goal is X, but X isn't really what the character wants in the end, but it is what the character wants in the beginning so how do I clarify that for my charts? It's always been a bit messy for me. Within the first pages of Christine's book, she defines how a character has a Want at the beginning of the story that will develop into a Need at the end of the story and I thought "Eureka!" That's it exactly and it's all very clear. By laying out motivation as starting out with a Want and ending with a need, it becomes clear how to map out a character's progress.

Every page of this Guide is chock full of useful information that will make you think as a writer about your characters and how to dig deeper to get the most out of them. As I'm reading this on Kindle, I kind of want to go back to the beginning and take notes. Just in the short amount I have read there has been a lot of information to digest, and in the electronic form it's hard to flip back to a certain page.

The only quibble I have is that the formatting on one of the charts was cut off. I am going to download the book on my iPad and see if the larger screen makes a difference in how it looks. Other than that, though, I think this Guide is a great addition to any writer's shelf.

For more information, visit Christine Fairchild's blog, Editor Devil:


Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Thanks for the tip, Gabriella. I'm always struggling with my characters. I'll definitely check out Christine's guides.

Lydia Kang said...

I hadn't heard of this book, so thanks so much for the review!

Also, thank you for stopping by on my blog. It was interesting to hear how your life/blogging experiences have been similar to mine. :)

icedgurl said...

trekking your blog!!!


Sheila Tenold said...

Informative post, Gabriella. Thanks. I'll check out Christine Fairchild's blog today. There are many how-to books and I appreciate your alerting us about hers.

Mona Risk said...

Characters is what makes a story good or bad. Weeks after reading a book I probably forget the title but will always remember good characters-- characters that striked me for a reason or another, or characters that remind of someone. In MHO, the best plot fails if the characters are not well presented. It's like a movie played by weak actors who really don't know how to act and ruin a good story.

Josie said...

I hadn't heard about this book, Gabriella, and, as Mona pointed out, characters make the book. Thanks for pointing this book out for us.