Karelia is one of my favorite people. She is a brilliant writer, yes – but she also has that incredible ability to teach people how to be brilliant writers. (Or at least, better writers than they were before she taught them.)
I’ve learned a lot every time I have taken a workshop by Karelia and I’m excited that she agreed to guest blog on my page this month. Please take a look at her blog and check out her books. You will not be disappointed. You can find her website here.
Four Ways to a Good Character
By Karelia Stetz-Waters
My creative writing students were working on character development. They called out ideas. I wrote on the board as fast as I could. Then we stopped and looked at our work.
“These are all traits we don’t like,” one student said.
“It’s harder to write good people, isn’t it?” I said. “Think about someone good. Describe them.”
I immediately thought of Beth Burnett. If you don’t know her, hold out your virtual hand and shake hers because you won’t meet a kinder, cooler member of our community.
And that’s why I’m so honored to write a guest post for her blog.
I write romance novels. Romance novels are all about good people. Write a thriller—I’ve written a few—and you can load up on serial killers like chicken wings at the KFC buffet. And that’s fun, but good people are better. We have to love our protagonists. Then, in my opinion, every protagonist must have at least one good friend. Then you need a place that’s almost a character itself. Someplace beautiful. Someplace your readers want to go. (I nailed it with my Out in Portland series. Apparently Portland is the seventh most moved-to city in American!)
“So how do we write a good character?” another student asked.
I love teaching creative writing because the students ask the questions I want to answer.
I have four traits, that make a character good.
Good characters care. They care about something bigger than themselves. They care about justice or animals or hungry children or the mill workers who got laid off. In my upcoming romance, a closeted TV star worries about coming out, not because she cares about losing her job, but because she’s worried about all the people who have taken comfort in her show. She doesn’t want them to think that all those years were a lie.
Good characters honor their debts. I mean debts with a capital D, debts like the debts in the Lord’s Prayer. It’s not enough just to care. Good characters act with compassion.
Good characters strive. It’s our responsibility to try to reach our full potential. Now some characters’ full potential is like my full potential for going to the gym—I bought a membership in January, and I still haven’t gone, but tomorrow…. As challenging as things are, good characters do everything they can do in this moment. After all, a long journey is a million baby steps.
Good characters see the world in a new way. A likable character shows us the beautiful world in a way we haven’t seen before.
And here’s the thesis, class. The most important character is you.
I hope I’m good. I know I care about you, whoever you are, reading this in your living-room or on your phone on the subway. I’m thinking about where you’re going and what you’ll face today. I’m thinking about how many good people there are in the world and how I’d like to gather you all up in my arms.
Leave a comment and tell us what makes you uniquely good.
Karelia’s next novel, Worth the Wait, comes out June 19th.
For fifteen years, Avery Crown tried to forget her best friend Merritt Lessing. The late nights studying, the whispered confidences, and the little touches that never turned into something more. Unfortunately, her efforts have not been as successful as her TV career as the queen of home renovation. So when she runs into Merritt at their high school reunion, Avery asks for one night with the woman she’s always wanted…
Merritt spent high school pining after Avery, but never made a move—their friendship meant too much. The one time it seemed things might change, Avery chose her budding career. So Merritt did the same, throwing herself into her remodeling business. Now Avery’s back, and while Merritt still hasn’t forgiven her for walking away the first time, they can’t keep their hands off each other. But when their professional paths cross, and it seems like Avery is choosing her career once again, Merritt will have to decide if she’s willing to let go of the past and give herself a second chance with her first love.