Every Sunday, the feature SHANNON MUIR’S MYSTERY OF CHARACTER on SHANNON MUIR’S THE PULP AND MYSTERY SHELF focuses on the art and craft of writing from Shannon’s perspective, or gives you insight on her process as an author.
This week features Shannon looking into the necessity of emotion in writing, not only for characters but for readers as well.
This is an updated and combined version of two past columns that Shannon Muir did for a sister site.
SPEAKING OF EMOTIONS… WATCH FOR A SPECIAL SHORTS FROM THE SHELF EVENT IN EARLY FEBRUARY.
THERE WILL BE A SPECIAL SET OF “SHANNON MUIR’S MYSTERY OF CHARACTER” COLUMNS FEBRUARY 11TH THROUGH 14TH, 2019.
ALSO, DON’T MISS THE “LOVE OF MYSTERIES SUNDAYS” EVENT, WHICH WILL FEATURE MYSTERIES ON SUNDAYS FROM FEBRUARY 17TH THROUGH MARCH 10, 2019!
THIS COLUMN WILL RETURN TO REGULARLY SCHEDULED SUNDAYS BEGINNING MARCH 17TH, 2019!
Last year following Valentine’s Day, I decided to unpack the idea if characters need to be emotional to be effective. What I ended up deciding is that it isn’t necessary, as long as the character’s distance or detachment is credible. They key is for the character to be compelling, and there’s no reason a character can’t fulfill that requirement if they don’t wear their heart on their sleeve.
The key involves getting the audience to want to find out more about the character – basically, having a mystery of some sort to uncover, to hark back to the column title. Even if the character can’t grow and change, if the reader’s knowledge of them grows and changes, this can be effective as well. Also, I think genre can make a difference – an emotion-guarded or distant character would be a harder sell in a romance versus hard-boiled detective fiction, for example.
The ultimate thing I emphasize is that a character should be worth caring about. This would be true whether a hero, anti-hero, or antagonist. I realize that the idea of “worth caring about” might need a little fleshing out, and perhaps might be a bit over-simplified. It would certainly be plausible to find a character to be interesting, and yet not care about how the character progresses. I even realize I’ve read a few stories like this, where the character’s own story and background are interesting, but when the writer actually tries to use this character in a plot it feels forced and stilted – therefore, while I find the character to be one I might care about, I don’t necessarily care about the character in the story’s context.
The bottom line, then, is not to just create characters your readers will find interesting but to place them in a plot that brings out the nature of those characters to the fullest.
On Feburary 1st, SHANNON MUIR’S THE PULP AND MYSTERY SHELF will be “taken over” by a new SHORTS FROM THE SHELF, running through Valentine’s Day.
After that, don’t miss the LOVE OF MYSTERIES event, bring you features on mysteries every Sunday from February 17th through March 10th, 2019.
Look for this column to return on March 17, 2019.