Monday, March 4, 2013

Margot Livesey on How to Create Vivid Characters

I’ll be leaving for AWP tomorrow, so no more blogging for the rest of the week.  But luckily, Redux has published a fantastic essay by writer Margot Livesey about creating characters, so I can leave off by urging you to read this smart and elegant piece:

Anyone who has read Margot Livesey’s books (which include Eva Moves the Furniture Homework, and The Flight of Gemma Hardy,) will find this hard to believe, but Livesey claims, “I am character handicapped.”  She writes,

“This essay grows out of my efforts to understand why the process of creating characters in fiction often seems so elusive and what we can do to make it less so.  To paraphrase Flannery O’Connor’s famous remark about story, everyone knows what a character is, until they sit down to create one.”
Through a close consideration of memorable characters, she comes up with valuable insights that will aid writers at any point in their writing career, reaching back to Aristotle, E.M. Forster, William Gass, and following up with her own observations, making a compelling case for one quality particularly necessary for successful character development:

 This seems to me the key to creating vivid and memorable characters.  It is also, I think, the reason why doing so can prove such a tricky task.  No amount of detail – eyes, teeth, hair, jobs, dreams, relationship to mother, history of dog ownership, bank balance – will avail unless it conveys attitude. 
There’s much more!  Read on.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.