Last week I talked about finding my voice and balance between myself and absorbing the flavor of the authors that I read.
This week I wanted to introduce one of the writers whom I've actively admired and tried to emulate (not too much, though.)
Orson Scott Card is a famous Mormon writer. He's been around longer than he'd like me to point out, and while it wasn't his first effort at novel writing, Ender's Game was, in it's time, as amazing as Stephanie Meyer's Twilight is today.
I've read every book by Mr. Card, and own most of them (which is a serious investment with several kids to supply basic needs for.)
OSC has also written How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. Even if this isn't your genre, its principles apply to the basics of good writing.
Two things have stuck with me over the years about OSC's writing. First, dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. Perfecting your dialogue, the voices of your characters through what they say is key. Dialogue, more than anything your characters do, will bring the reader closer to being a part of the story. Dialogue reveals more about the people in your novels, whether they are liars or perfectionists, sly or simple. Or all of the above. As much as we want to be able to put the things we see inside our heads on the page, we don't want to take up 1000 words of our novel to describe the view from the doorway. Our readers don't want that, they want to know what happens next. Dialogue propels the action forward. So the sooner we get a handle on our dialogue, the better.
The other thing that I've heard from him several times is that evil characters are boring. The whole “anti-hero” fad is annoying in the extreme because what really fascinates him in a book is when a good man (or woman) is faced with agonizing decisions, choices that have us as readers screaming at the book in heartbreak over these people we love having to deal with such horrible options.
I have to agree. I have a hard time sympathizing with characters whose motivations are so alien from my own. I don't mind reading about them every once in a while, but it's like looking at some odd creature of nature, safely behind glass at the zoo. I'll look for a while, but I won't ever fall in love with it.
So when I write, I try to have my MC be the kind of person that is good, faced with difficulties that seem impossible to overcome. Of course you need bad guys, and they can't be one dimensional, either. But they're the bad guys. They don't need to be sympathetic. They can be alien to our way of thinking. That's why they're the antagonist.
Next week I'll talk about another author who caught me young, and changed the way I thought about narrative in novels.