Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Review of Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

In classic thought-provoking form, science-fiction legend Orson Scott Card offers a keenly observant, occasionally controversial, always worthwhile perspective on the art of crafting characters and selecting POVs. As the heart of our fiction, our characters are arguably the single most important ingredient in the brew of our stories. As a result, it’s hardly surprising they’re often difficult to master. In this 180-page volume, Card gives us the tools to look into the inner workings of the personalities on our pages and help us figure out how to bring them to unforgettable life.

He opens the book with several chapters on inspiration. Where do characters come from? How can we open our eyes to look for nuggets of character inspiration in our everyday lives? His suggestions range from the tried-and-true “watching people in a cafĂ©” to more thoughtful discussions of how to successfully play on and against stereotypes. He touches upon the various types of characters, including a particularly insightful discussion of types of stories and the types of characters they require. Although he didn’t include the writing exercises that are common in more recent installments of the Elements of Fiction Writing series, he offers a slew of marvelous examples, both from his own pen and from popular books and movies, to underline his points.

The final section includes his thoughts on points of view. These chapters are comparatively short, but they cover deeper ground than what’s found in most analyses of the subject. His breakdown of the various types of narrators provides a clear understanding of a sometimes tricky subject and gives authors solid knowledge on which to base their choice of POVs. This is a highly informative and entertaining read that belongs on every serious writer’s shelf.

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