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Recommended Article by Steven James

The current issue of Writer’s Digest (July/August 2011) features four articles dealing with revision. Each article has something to recommend it, but the one I found most interesting, by Steven James, deals with character status.


Characters have status?

To quote Mr. James: “When readers complain that a character is one-dimensional, flat or ‘cardboard,’ they may not realize it, but they’re actually noting that the character—regardless of the social context in which she appears—always has the same degree of status. She might always be angry or ruthless or heroic, but the more uniformly she responds to everyone and everything, the less interesting she’ll be.

People in real life are complex.

Fictional characters need to be, as well.”

Which I take to mean the character can be so predictable in their responses that the reader loses interest. Characters need to have varying status levels. For example: A character may have low status with their boss, but high status as head of family. It is the shifting status that generates interest.

When Clark Kent worked at the daily planet, his status was low. The red cape raised his status to the max.

Think about it, and pick up the article if you get a chance.


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1 Comment

  1. Read this article a minute ago – very good advice. I find myself doing a lot of the things he talked about instinctively, but to have the “rules” spelled out in black and white helps a lot.

    Thanks for recommending it.


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