Monday, October 10, 2011

Snow, Conferences, and Rooting for a Character

This may still be the view from my front porch:


But at the conference I went to in Park City this weekend, this was the view from the balcony at the cabin we stayed in:


Can you believe all that snow in OCTOBER? The beginning of October, no less? It was crazy. But chilly or not, the conference itself was amazing, as conferences always are. There is nothing like hanging out with a bunch of other people who love writing every bit as much as you do!

One of my favorite parts of the conference was the first night, when John Brown (of Servant of a Dark God fame) did a fabulous presentation right after dinner. (He put up a link to the .pdf of his presentation "Story Lessons from the Hunger Games" on his website, if you want to check it out.)

We all want our characters to be sympathetic, right? Of course the key to making a character sympathetic is to make them likeable, interesting, good, and to give them hardships and danger. It doesn't have to always be physical danger-- danger can be a threat to any kind of happiness.

He said that rooting for a character is more than just having sympathy for a character. They can't just be likeable and interesting and good and have hardships and danger. They have to also be active and have a chance at winning. Sometimes a character only reacts, or waits for others to tell them what to do. We may like the character just fine, but that's not enough to make us really root for them. Our characters have to be proactive. They have to DO things. They have to make choices and act on those choices. Even if they make a wrong choice, even if they lead others into a wrong choice, we root for them if they are actively trying to solve the problem.

My other favorite quote of the night: Your reader doesn't want to know what WILL happen. They want to know and worry about what MIGHT happen.

And he's right! It's the MIGHT happen that gets us every single time.

16 comments:

Shell Flower said...

Brrrr. That picture of your balcony makes me cold. I'm glad you had fun at the conference and I am so glad we get to enjoy some of what you learned. This is a great post!

Iain said...

Wow! Looks like it was a cool place to stay (no pun intended. (Well, maybe a little bit))
This entry is so inspiring, and that's just from your first night! I can't imagine how pumped up you must be after a whole weekend of it :o)

Abby said...

This is awesome! I have a post all typed up about the class he taught on creating "problem" in your story from the LUW conference. He does an awesome job! Sounds like your conference was wonderful. Bummer about the snow tho.

Kelley said...

How gorgeous is that!?!? (I'm talking about both pictures.)

Sounds like a great conference and wonderful advice.

Elana Johnson said...

I'm feeling the snow pain. I so don't want winter to come.

Great recap. I love the points you (he) made about characters. We like to worry for them. That background tension is what makes you think about a book after you finish it.

J. A. Bennett said...

I LOVE John Brown! He is a great speaker! That cabin look to-die-for :)

i'm erin. said...

Loved the quotes. I thought JB was the highlight...and cuddling with you. I can't wait for next year!

E.R. King said...

John Brown has a great point. If the character is up against the impossible, why would you root for them? No one wants to be on the losing side. : )

Jessie Humphries said...

Now I feel really guilty of distracting you during this presentation by passing notes of pregnant looking stick figures. I am so immature like that. You are the smart girl taking good notes, and I am the goof-off not paying attention. Btw, can I borrow your notes? :).

Janet said...

That quote is great, and it is so true!

Susan Kane said...

That is so true. Even my 5 yr. old granddaughter gets anxious about what will happen to the MC in her little books, or children movies. I have to reassure her that everything will be okay.

Lan said...

Sounds like it was a great conference. After reading the PDF I wish I was there! Some great lessons to be learned.

Nas Dean said...

For a person living in a tropical country with Sun shining all year around, these photos are absolutely beautful!

And your conference sounds great with wonderful advice!

Thanks so much for sharing!

Carrie Butler said...

Great photos! (...Though, I refuse to acknowledge the second one as an harbinger of what is to come.)

I'm glad you had fun at your conference! You're right. It's all about what might happen. :)

Jenny S. Morris said...

Wow, what a pretty view. Sounds like you had a good time, and learned some awesome stuff.

Ciara said...

Love the view. That is so true. Readers have to sit on the edge of their seats with anticipation or you'll lose them.