Showing posts from December, 2010

Back to basics: characters in writing

Now that the holidays are winding down, it's time to go back to our original task: to define the 6 major elements of a work of fiction:

1. Setting
2. Mood/tone
3. Characters
4. Plot
5. Imagery & symbolism
6. Theme

Characters are central to any work of fiction, or story. They can be human, animal, or imaginary. Nature is often a character, as is history, religion, a place or the future.

1. Human: Jane Austen's creation, Emma
2. Animal: Black Beauty (a wonderful horse)
3. Imaginary: R2D2 or Jabba the Hut

4. Nature: the tornado in The Wizard of Oz
5. History: the Black Plague in The Doomsday Book

6. Religion: Buddhism in Siddhartha
7. A place: Narnia

8. The future: 2001

The Black Plague in medieval England, updated

I just finished a fantastic (literally!) book, a science fiction novel called "Doomsday Book" by Connie Willis. The title is a play on the "Domesday Book," a medieval record of daily life in the age when every Christian belonged to the One True Church and the average life expectancy was 37 years.

The premise: A young woman from Oxford time travels from 2052 back to 1328, but the time machine messes up and she ends up in 1348, the year when the Black Death laid waste to England. How will she survive? How will she return to Oxford? Will she find true love?

The book has it all:

1. Broad and deep plot, full of twists and turns, with a satisfying conclusion that pulls it all together.

2. Vivid, idiosyncratic characters, not cardboard-flat stereotypes.

3. Evocative descriptions of the terrain, the villages, the hovels and the manor house (not so much better than a hovel), the animals, the church, and the cow (really!).

4. Great pacing, like a well-made movie. Just when …