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Write Great Fiction: Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint : Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints (Inglese) Copertina flessibile – 15 mar 2005

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3 di 3 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
5.0 su 5 stelle Kress Writes Fiction with Logic and Flair 23 marzo 2017
Di Stephen W. Hiemstra ﻦ - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina flessibile Acquisto verificato
One of the dividing lines between fiction and nonfiction writing shows itself in the indirect way that fiction writers express themselves, “showing” rather than “telling” the reader. Showing a characteristic or emotion subtly transforms the reader from an observer into a participant in the story. Depending on whose head does the reader occupies, we arrive at the “point of view” (POV) that the author wants to use, something that nonfiction writers may treat casually or simply ignore. In her book, Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint, Nancy Kress offers us a guide to this subtly in three parts—character, emotion, and point of view.

Character. Kress sees character defining fiction because character differences shape plots, settings, and writing styles, even if the influence cuts both ways (2-3). These subtle influences require that the writer adopt different perspectives, that of the writer, the character, the reader, and the critic, but at different times (3-4, 221). She sees four sources for interesting characters: “yourself, real people you know, real people you hear about, and pure imagination.” (5)

An important aspect of character is whether they are “stayers” or “changers”. Kress writes: “Changers are characters who alter in significant ways as a result of the events of your story.” By contrast, stayers may be heroes, like James Bond, who remain remarkably unflappable over time and always get the villain or may “come to grief because of their blindness.” (10) Likewise, motivations that characters exhibit may either be unchanging or change over the course of the story. Thus, four basic character/plot patterns emerge from the interaction of personality and motivation:

1. Personality stable, motivation stable;
2. Personality stable, motivation changes;
3. Personality changes, motivation stable; and
4. Personality changes, motivation changes (67).

The key to any change in personality or motivation is to make it believable.

Emotion. Kress sees emotion derived “from two other critical concepts: motivation and backstory” where “motivation means that someone wants something” (35-36) and backstory explains why. The backstory can be given in: brief detail, an inserted paragraph, a flashback or an expository dump (39). Motivation gets interesting when a character has conflicting or mixed motivations that help define character (52-54).
Expressing emotion is tricky because characters differ in ethnicity, family background, region, gender, education, and circumstances (106-108). In view of these differences, writing dialogue is tricky—we do not speak the same and we reveal emotions to just anyone. Because many people are uptight about expressing emotion, Kress cites several occasions that might allow emotional dialogue to proceed, like keeping a journal, writing a letter, talking to a pet, therapist, or priest (114-115). Another way to open up emotions is to infer them through the use of metaphors and symbols (120-121, 124).

In her inventory of emotions, Kress highlight frustration as important in plot development and authenticity in character development. Kress writes:

“Because frustration is such an important emotion in fiction, how well you portray it can make the difference between characters that seem real and those that seem cardboard.” (150)

Kress sees: “four modes of conveying emotion: action, dialogue, bodily sensations, and character’s thoughts” (46) which implies that frustration must too be displayed in various modes.

Point of View. Because we are only really privy to our own emotions, fiction fascinates us because we get to experience someone else’s (158) and writers get to choose both which character’s POV is highlighted and how much story time it gets. Kress suggests these criteria in choosing a POV character:

“Who will be hurt by the action? . . .
Who can be present at the climax? . . .
Who gets most of the good scenes? . . .
What will provide an interesting outlook on the story? . . .
Whose head are you most interested in inhabiting during this story?” (160-161)

After choosing a POV character, the next step is to decide how the author will appear in the narration—“first person, third person, omniscient, or (rarely) the ‘novelty’ points of view: second, plural first, plural third, and epistolary.” (163)

While most of these POVs are well known, in the case of the third person, which is most common, Kress further delves into the question of distance—close third, medium-distance third, and distant third—which deals with the level of intimacy that the author presumes. (185) Close third allows the author to read the character’s thoughts, almost like first person, while distant third views the character as external and more formal. (188) Middle-distance third remains somewhere inbetween. The clincher is that the author can move between these three categories, although too much jumping around is confusing. (190) Kress suggests sticking with one perspective per scene. (194-195)

Nancy Kress is a writing instructor with several writing books and a novelist, specializing in science fiction and fantasy. Awards that her books have won include:

“six Nebulas (for ‘Out of All Them Bright Stars,’ ‘Beggars in Spain,’ ‘The Flowers of Aulit Prison,’ ‘Fountain of Age,’ ‘After the Fall, Before the Fall, and During the Fall,’ and ‘Yesterday’s Kin’), two Hugos (for ‘Beggars in Spain’ and ‘The Erdmann Nexus’), a Sturgeon (for ‘The Flowers of Aulit Prison’), and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award (for PROBABILITY SPACE).”

Her most recent degrees are from the State University of New York at Brockport, where she had earned an M.S. in education (1977) and an M.A. in English (1979).

Nancy Kress’ book, Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint, is a how-to-book for fiction writers. Nonfiction writers, like myself, can also benefit both from becoming better informed about descriptive writing and from learning to write tighter stories, which appears in most nonfiction writing. Kress’ writing is accessible, a joy to read, and displays a wonderful knowledge of classical fiction writing.


Kress, Nancy. 2004. Dynamic Characters. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books.

Kress, Nancy. 2011. Beginnings, Middles, and Ends. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books.
2 di 2 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
4.0 su 5 stelle How to build characters with depth and appeal 22 novembre 2016
Di Bernie Gourley - Pubblicato su
Formato: Formato Kindle Acquisto verificato
This book is about how to write characters with sufficient depth that readers will follow them through to the end of a story. As the title suggests, there are three major components to the book: character building, emotional considerations, and point of view. A story requires a character who needs or wants something and faces barriers to that goal. The character has to be someone that the reader is interested in seeing through a process that involves inching toward a goal while being repeatedly beaten back. This doesn’t mean the character has to be likable, but if the character is unrealistic and uninteresting readers won’t get far. (In other words, they don’t have to like the character, but they do have to feel some sort of way about them.) Facing barriers to one’s goals creates emotional states that must feel authentic. If a character doesn’t respond emotionally to events, then the story is likely to feel flat (unless one has built a hilarious Sheldon Cooper-like character on purpose.) The perspective from which the reader learns of events is critical because it determines what information the reader is privy to, and—in particular—information about thoughts and emotions that are sometimes falsely portrayed.

Of the sixteen chapters that comprise the book, the first seven explore character development. Chapter 1 describes character in terms of general types. The book goes on to discuss the importance of how one introduces key characters. The next three chapters drill down into the challenge of building an authentic character: 1.) What is the character like deep down? 2.) Are the motives of the character clear-cut or complex? 3.) How can one show that the character has changed over the course of the story, and, if they don’t change, will the reader be satisfied? Chapters 6 and 7 investigate specialized types of characters (i.e. genre characters such as in romance, mystery, thriller, or sci-fi [Ch. 6] and in humor [Ch.7.])

Chapters 8 through 11 examine emotion and how it’s conveyed to the reader. The means by which writers communicate emotion include: dialogue (Ch. 8), metaphor, symbolism, and sensory experience (Ch.9.) Chapter 10 delves into special cases that are common in fiction but which require unique consideration (love, fighting, and dying.) Frustration has its own chapter (Ch.11,) and that may seem odd, but one must remember that a story is one barrier after another being erected in the way of the character’s pursuit of his or her objective.

The next four chapters present information to help the writer evaluate different approaches to viewpoint. Not only are there various pros, cons, and considerations one must take into account when deciding upon viewpoint, each approach has a several variations. The first of these chapters (Ch. 12) outlines the broad-based considerations. The next three chapters deal with first person (Ch. 13), third person (Ch. 14), and omniscient points of view (Ch. 15,) respectively. (The rarely used 2nd person point of view is also discussed briefly, but largely as a warning.) The last chapter explores how to make it all work by way of what Kress calls the “fourth persona.” Early in the book, one is told that the writer must simultaneously embody three personas (i.e. the writer, the character, and the reader.) Kress’s “fourth persona” is that of the critic, and it becomes necessary once one has drafted a story and character.

The book has a few extras. At the end of each chapters there are several (usually 4 to 6) exercises to help writers understand the concepts through practice. The chapters each have summaries, and at the end of the book there’s a summary in the form of a checklist. That is about it for ancillary features. There are a couple graphics in the form of pictures of a “mini-bio” and an “emotional mini-bio.” These are single page fill-in-the blank summaries that help one build a character that has depth and an authentic feel.

I found this book to be interesting and educational. The writer uses examples from a number of popular commercial and literary fiction authors. There’s no real need to be familiar with any particular author, but being familiar with them might present one with additional insights. The book is readable.

I would recommend this book for writers of fiction.
1 di 1 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
5.0 su 5 stelle I wish I had read this long ago 31 marzo 2017
Di Eloise - Pubblicato su
Formato: Formato Kindle Acquisto verificato
I've read over a dozen books and numerous articles on aspects of writing including many on POV. Yet, this book goes into so much depth on POV, that I finally understand writing rules I have considered arbitrary and faddish. I also like her advice on the overall writing process and finding out best what works for you instead of a prescritpion that everyone must follow. She includes the varying work habits of different authors including what settled them down for work each day.
5.0 su 5 stelle I found this book to be very useful at helping me work through some issues with the ... 14 marzo 2016
Di joyous - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina flessibile Acquisto verificato
I found this book to be very useful at helping me work through some issues with the characters in my novel. The relatively narrow focus means Kress can delve deeply into each of the issues she covers. The first seven chapters are about deciding and showing who your characters are, including how their outer presentation might not match their inner thoughts, and how they might (or might not) change over the course of the book. I appreciated the level of detail here. I thought I had a pretty good handle on my main characters, but every chapter encouraged me to think about something new, or in more depth than I had before. The middle four chapters deal with how to think about and then show your characters' emotions. This time around, I especially appreciated the chapter on how different types of people respond differently to frustration, and how to express that for your main characters. This is key for just about any story, since whatever it is your characters want to achieve, if they got it easily you'd have a short book! The last four chapters go into wonderful detail about point of view strategies. I appreciated how the author gave the pros and cons for each type, including which are currently more popular, without coming down hard on either a literary or a commercial stance. That is, she never says, "This is better, and you should do it this way," but instead says, "If you decide to do it this other way, you should know what difficulties you'll face."

Throughout the chapters, Kress uses examples very effectively. When she refers to classic characters, she usually uses several, so that if you haven’t read all of the same books, hopefully you recognize at least one or two (she also describes them). If you haven't read any of the books, you'll be at a disadvantage. But I'd think reading a synopsis online would give you enough of an idea of, say, Anna Karenina or Mr. Darcy to understand what Kress means.

Since this is a book that I already know I'll be going back to again and again, I appreciate how well-organized it is, with clear sub-section headings within each chapter so you can quickly find the part you want to re-read. At the end of each chapter, Kress gives a recap of the chapter and includes several exercises to try. I didn't see much point in the recaps, but they didn't take up much space. The exercises were hit and miss. I usually don't actually do exercises anyway, but I like to think them through. When the exercises were specific to the characters in my WIP, they made the most sense to me. And some of the exercises about observing others' behavior (e.g., in public, or interacting with friends) and thinking about how that applies to writing were also interesting. However, many of the writing exercises were completely unrelated to the reader's WIP characters and seemed off-track; presumably anyone reading this book wants to apply it to a current project.

Overall, it's a great craft book, and I would definitely recommend it.
2 di 2 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
3.0 su 5 stelle Good for Fiction books... However, 11 marzo 2016
Di Kayliese Smith - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina flessibile Acquisto verificato
If you're writing a fantasy novel or anything other than a fiction such as (Sci-fi, Paranormal, etc.) I wouldn't recommend this book because the advice it gives doesn't really relate to those genres. However, if you just plan on writing a fiction with realistic components then I suggest this book.