There’s all sorts of writing advice out there for how to craft or create better, quirkier, more commercially appealing characters and stories. There’s formulas, case studies, surveys and the like…but I really think it just comes down to looking at your story and your characters and saying, “How is this character more than just a character? How is my story going beyond a normal action or mystery story?”
I remember one of the colleges I wanted to apply to for my MBA stated that they wanted applicants to “go beyond”. Well what does go beyond mean?
It took a year or two of pondering that phrase on and off. Now I think I get what it means.
It means to look beyond the face value and look beyond the product itself. A book is just a story, just a compilation of words and letters that communicate meaning. That’s it.
An action story is just a story with guns and maybe some running and some chasing and some violence.
So then when people talk about making a great story, making great characters…one really easy way to solve that issue is to just ask, “How is my story more than just a story? How is it more than just words?”
“How is my character more than just a guy? How is he more than just an action star?”
Once you start answering questions like these, you can REALLY get into what makes your character stand out and you can fairly easily work towards achieving a high quality character or otherwise fulfilling a goal of having quality in your story. Knowing, answering and showing what makes your character more than just a character, what makes your story more than just a story, that’s really when you push to make something exceptional. Something that isn’t cookie cutter. Maybe it is not 100% unique, but it tries to stand out from the pack and stand out beyond its face value purpose.
For example, a character isn’t just a character. Yes, it is a creation of the mind. But it can be a vehicle for expression.
A story isn’t just a story. It can be an escape. It can be entertainment. It can inspire readers and maybe nudge or change their lives.
Words aren’t just words. They can change emotions. If you think words are just words, go lovingly compliment someone or coldly insult them. It’s just words? Well to the other person, his or her mood or emotions are now completely different from those words.
So, “How does my character go beyond just being a character or person in this world?” “How is my story more than just a story I’m telling in a book? What else does it do or can it do besides just being a story or just having some characters in a book?”