// you’re reading...


Characters Make Your Story

READERSVOICE.COM gives a few samples from interesting out of print books. This issue features another excellent how to write book, Characters Make Your Story by Maren Elwood, written in 1942. These samples are from a 1959 hardback published by The Writer Inc., Boston.

Ms Elwood wrote about cause and effect. She says: We are writing a story. At the moment the story opens, the villain slaps the hero. The reader instinctively recognises this as an effect, the cause of which is unknown to him. The slap remains an effect only as long as it bears no result. But the moment the hero does something about it, or responds, the slap becomes likewise a cause; the cause of our hero’s response.

She said that causes and effects continued “in a series of ascending crises to a final dramatic and conclusive effect, where the writer ends his story.”

She wrote about character responses: What that response will be depends entirely on the dominant character-traits of the hero. If we have created him in our minds as a dominant extrovert, he will knock the villain down, push him into the lake… depending on his individuality and on the attendant circumstances. But if our hero is an introvert, the effect of the cause, that is, the slap, is certain to be different. Our hero may reason with the villain, he may walk away in embarrassment, or he may be deeply hurt. It is this showing of the effect of this cause, the slap, on our story-character that will characterise him for the reader.

She said that likewise, the villain’s reaction characterises him.

She said the writer has to know the characters very well, so that their reactions are consistent with what that character would do. They have to be logical responses.

She said stimuli, or causes, can be from within or without. Stimuli from without included: words, actions, gestures, situations. From within: thoughts, emotions, a decision, a dominant character-trait, a mood or wish. “People react to moods from within just as characteristically as they do to physical violence from without.”

-continued next page