The Best Writing Advice I Ever Received.
- November 9, 2019
- Cate Holahan
In Margaret Atwood’s MasterClass, she tells writers to reveal character through action.
…”a person is what happens to them. So a novel is characters interacting with events. Characters don’t just exist in isolation. You’re finding out who they are through how they interact, through the decisions they make, through how other people treat them, through how they react to how other people treat them. All of these interactions that change us, that reveal us to ourselves, that reveal us to other people, and therefore to the reader.”–Margaret Atwood, award-winning author of dozens of famous novels including The Handmaid’s Tale.
In her lecture series, Atwood goes on to explain that people lie to each other and to themselves. Folks tell themselves that they have certain strengths and failings and opinions that, when it comes times to act on them, they don’t demonstrate. So, who a person truly is, is what that person does.
In my opinion, it’s good advice for creating character, and great real world advice about people in general. In a world of online virtue signaling, I have to remind myself to do more than just say I support things. I have to take actions to support them.
I asked some of the Missdemeanors what their favorite pieces of advice were from the greats. Here’s what they mentioned.
Paula Munier: “I try to leave out the parts readers skip.”—Elmore Leonard
Robin Stuart: “David Corbett has a Post-It on his computer monitor that says, “Make it worse.” He means the situation for the character(s), not the writing itself. The note reminds him to keep coming up with new and different challenges for his characters to overcome to keep the stakes and tension high.”
Tracee de Hahn: “Work hard, then keep working.” –Janet Evanovich.
Susan Breen: I’m going to take something from Paula Munier’s book on beginnings: “The best story openings are fierce enough to grab the readers, editors and agents.” I love the idea of starting off fierce. Puts me in a good mindset.
C. Michele Dorsey: Write from the heart and edit from the head.–unknown
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