(conjuring the image of the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk:"Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman. Be he alive or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread.")
Bones, bones, tasty bones
Fresh bones, blood-sticky, flesh-spongy bones
Arm bones and thigh bones and tiny, skinny finger bones
Puzzle-cut spine bones and knobby-ended wrist bones
Not-so-round skull bones
Shovel-scooped collar bones, wing-like shoulder bones
Bones, bones, lovely bones
White-boiled angels floating in my stew
(It ain't great, but I laughed a time or two typing it.)
Okay, enough of that. Now for something more serious.
I've been considering my characters, and studying what other writers do to make theirs memorable. Anyone who's been to a writers conference knows about psychological profiles / questionnaires, intended to help us know our characters from the insides out, or about character sheets, where we list all sorts of things, from physical traits and flaws to childhood trauma to favorite styles of footwear. But what makes a character linger in the reader's mind for not only days but years?
I met Philip Martin a few years ago when he was speaking at an Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. conference in Oklahoma City, and when I, feeling a little like a teenage groupie, asked him to sign my copy of his book, The Writer's Guide to Fantasy Literature: From Dragons Lair to Hero Quest. Through a variety of circumstances -- a group lunch, a discussion session, and more -- we struck up an acquaintance. Though communication has been sporadic over the last couple of years, I do check in on his blog from time to time, and the latest entry addresses the matter of memorable -- or quirky -- characters: "The Wonderfully Eccentric Characters of Charles Dickens".
He includes a link to his newsletter, too, in which there is an article entitled "In Praise of Eccentricity":
The core of the writer's challenge is to tell a fresh story. As William M. Thackeray (Victorian novelist, author of Vanity Fair), summed it up: “The two most engaging powers of a good author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.”
But how? How do you put a fresh spin on old and common themes?
One secret: eccentricity!
That's the opening; here's the closing:
Find the character that is a bit odd (or a lot so), and you've got a core element of a story that can make the reader sit up and pay attention. By offering something fresh and exotic, you create real value, something we can’t get at the corner convenience store of the imagination. Remember the rule: eccentricity is your friend.
Now, head on over and check out all the stuff in between!