Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Wise Woman’s Fear – A Lack of Integrity

I’ve just finished reading ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ by Patrick Rothfuss. It is giving me a great deal to think about as both a reader and a writer – and overall a fear that I will never, ever be able to write a book half as good as this one!

What is it that makes this book so good? It’s a fantasy epic, beautifully written, with an enthralling plot and engaging characters. The main character, Kvothe, makes so many wrong decisions it is hard to keep track of them, but throughout it all the reader keeps with him, loves him, believes in him and wants him to win through. But none of those things, singly, make this a brilliant book

They are all important, but the guiding light is the genuine, absolute interest and belief the writer has in the world and the characters he has created. It is this integrity that gives the book its life.

So how can we get this into our own writing? First, we need to know what we believe, and then what our characters believe. We have to know everything about them, their past and their future, their nightmares and ambitions. I don’t personally think you need to know the exact details (he was born here, she went to school there) so much as the essence of them – the pain and the euphoria, what caused these; and if your characters experience neither of them, then why not? You need to know, or your readers will realise you don't - and then you will lose them.

So I’m going to keep on working on my imaginary world and especially on my characters, truly getting to know them, and hoping that I can express them with some of the depth and clarity Rothfuss achieves. And maybe the little bit of fear that I won’t, will give me the edge I need to keep trying.

10 comments:

  1. I just discovered your blog - and what a find!

    And what an interesting and thought provoking post, Gill. One that applies to all genres. I too will keep trying to write great characters - and use that fear of failing as a reason to try even harder!

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  2. A most interesting piece..food for thought. And it's such a good idea to 'share' a blog!

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  3. I really enjoy fantasy novels as part of my reading diet and thanks for the recommendation. I shall certainly add this one to my TBR. I do have one comment though. Fantasy authors frequently make their protags names 'difficult' and 'Kvothe' is almost a cliche of that trait!

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  4. Very interesting post, Gill, and a great lesson to keep in mind. Lovely blog too!

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  5. Thanks for comments. Interesting what you say about the name, Susan/Elizabeth - dh and I had some lengthy discussions about how it should be pronounced. On the other hand, neither of the boys (age 14 and 17) thought there was anything odd about it at all.

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  6. I have a post-it note stuck to the front of my PC. It's yellowing a bit now with age, but there are two words on it which are as pertinent to my writing now as they were when I first began. What are the two words? The two words are, 'But, why??' With every key scene I write, I always ask myself, why did he/she do that/say that? Why did he/she go there/or decide to stay there? If I can't answer the question then I know I don't know my characters well enough, haven't made their motivations strong enough, or I've sent them off somewhere for no good reason. You're perfectly right, Gill. If we don't create reality - or should I say, at least 'a sense' of reality - then how can we expect our readers to believe that our characters are real, and the setting we have placed them in is essential, rather than simply a back drop.

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  7. A fascinating post, Gill, and grist to the mill for any writer wishing to improve his/her craft. I'll definitely try to get hold of this book.

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  8. This is a great idea - I'm looking forward to following you all. Your posts give us plenty of food for thought.

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  9. Yes, great post, Gill (and lovely blog too!) - you're so right in that we need to know our characters really well although sometimes it takes a while to get there.

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  10. There's a real knack in being thought-provoking - and you clearly have it Gill! Your post has really set me thinking about my own characters - and actually I think a huge part of the 'fun' of writing lies in getting to know your characters, their personalities, their faults and failings etc. I know that every writer will understand why I put the word fun inside inverted commas...

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