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Elements of Fiction Writing - Characters & Viewpoint [Paperback]

Orson Scott Card
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)


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Book Description

March 15, 1999 0898799279 978-0898799279
Vivid and memorable characters aren't born: they have to be made.

This book is a set of tools: literary crowbars, chisels, mallets, pliers and tongs. Use them to pry, chip, yank and sift good characters out of the place where they live in your memory, your imagination and your soul.

Award-winning author Orson Scott Card explains in depth the techniques of inventing, developing and presenting characters, plus handling viewpoint in novels and short stories. With specific examples, he spells out your narrative options–the choices you'll make in creating fictional people so "real" that readers will feel they know them like members of their own families.

You'll learn how to:

  • draw the characters from a variety of sources, including a story's basic idea, real life–even a character's social circumstances
  • make characters show who they are by the things they do and say, and by their individual "style"
  • develop characters readers will love–or love to hate
  • distinguish among major characters, minor characters and walk-ons, and develop each one appropriately
  • choose the most effective viewpoint to reveal the characters and move the storytelling
  • decide how deeply you should explore your characters' thoughts, emotions and attitudes



Product Details

  • Series: Elements of Fiction Writing
  • Paperback: 182 pages
  • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books (March 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898799279
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898799279
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.9 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #314,249 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Orson Scott Card is the bestselling author best known for the classic Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow and other novels in the Ender universe. Most recently, he was awarded the 2008 Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in Young Adult literature, from the American Library Association. Card has written sixty-one books, assorted plays, comics, and essays and newspaper columns. His work has won multiple awards, including back-to-back wins of the Hugo and the Nebula Awards-the only author to have done so in consecutive years. His titles have also landed on 'best of' lists and been adopted by cities, universities and libraries for reading programs. The Ender novels have inspired a Marvel Comics series, a forthcoming video game from Chair Entertainment, and pre-production on a film version. A highly anticipated The Authorized Ender Companion, written by Jake Black, is also forthcoming.Card offers writing workshops from time to time and occasionally teaches writing and literature at universities.Orson Scott Card currently lives with his family in Greensboro, NC.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
127 of 128 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you're a writer, you owe this one to yourself July 25, 2002
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'd recommend this book to any author, novice to frequently-published. Even if you are an absolute natural at instilling your characters with life and believability, it is vital that you know the steps you are taking, unconscious though they may be, that make your characters seem plausible and alive. Card parses out exactly what makes the characterization in any story work.
The are chapters on description, motivation and growth are solid. Combined with the wonderful and numerous contrasting examples of good characterization/bad characterization, you will be able to go back to any story you've written and add, subtract and tweak your characters to make them leap off the page. Don't sell this book short because Orson Scott Card is primarily a writer of science fiction, either. This material will make absolutely any fiction a whole measure better.
Worth the money. Revise your stories with it. Write new, better ones after reading it. Run your writing workshops according to it. Card has given the writers' community a true winner here.
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132 of 135 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All you want to know and more. June 1, 2004
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Orson Scott Card, a well-known, successful sci-fi writer, master of the craft of characterization, gives us with this book one of the few writing reference volumes that flawlessly delivers everything it promises and more. Whether you want to write fiction of any genre, or scripts and plays, and whether you are a beginner or an experienced writer, this book has tons of essential, useful and solid information to offer.
Written in a clear, engaging style and organized in a user-friendly format this thoroughly informative volume is divided into three parts (Inventing Characters, Constructing Characters and Performing Characters) that cover everything you need to know to breathe life and believability into your characters and mold them to accurately fit your story, including among others:
*The factors that make a good character
*How to come up with ideas for your characters
*How different types of stories relate to the characters
*How to give emotion to the characters
*The different types of characters
*Transformations in the lives of characters
*The pros and cons of each point-of-view
The author's suggested exercises reinforced by the excellent examples that illustrate his exposition are helpful additions that allow the reader to immediately apply the lessons learned. Humorous anecdotes and important advice on general storytelling (sources for ideas, plot twists, story structure) are an added bonus.
With this book, you will not only learn how to create great, memorable characters, but you will also attain a greater appreciation of fiction, whether in book or film format, by gaining understanding of the processes required in all aspects of characterization.
With a great binding, sure to resist constant rereads and quick consultations, and a modest price this book is the best value on the market for the advice offered.
--Reviewed by M. E. Volmar
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52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Book by an Excellent Author August 14, 2002
Format:Paperback
Orson Scott Card is one of the foremost Sci-Fi authors today. He has written numerous novels and short stories, several of which have become major motion pictures.
He gives his advice on character development and viewpoint in this book, which does it rather well. Viewpoint, for me, was a tough subject, and Card covers the basics rather well. He discusses common mistakes, as well as ways to improve. He explains the good points, as well as the bad points about each point of view, then lets you decide which to use.
His characterization help is flawless. I have read several other books on this, and his advice is similar, if not the same as other authors. I have found that his basic format is probably the best way to "create" a person - writing character back-stories, etc. He gives his advice for creating the necessary changes that have to occur over the course of a story, and also gives the reasons why these changes must occur.
This book deserves to be on any beginning writer's bookshelf, although experienced writers may not find the point of view information useful. I feel any writer, experienced or not would benefit from the characterization info.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Probing Look Into Character and Viewpoint June 25, 2000
Format:Paperback
The book is divided into three parts: Inventing Characters, Constructing Characters, and Performing Characters. Card discusses a wide range of related topics: factors that make or break a character, the different types of stories (Milieu, Idea, Character, Event), how to write emotional scenes, transformations in the lives of characters, show and tell, and the benefits and drawbacks of each point-of-view (POV)---among others. Each chapter flows with a conversational, succinct style, leaving the reader with no excuse for misunderstanding. The final chapters on (POV) were well worth the money I paid for the book. Card explores POV deeply, deeper than any other writer of writer's books that I've read. Between paragraphs, I thought about my own stories and how they grossly lack POV unity (now back to the computer to revise). He uses illustrations, draw by Janice Card, to clarify his points (not that he needed to). After reading the last chapter, I set the book down and thought, "that's a damned good book." It's plain that Card loves fiction and has a thorough comprehension of what good fiction is; this book radiates it fully.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars High school report
Person I bought it for said it read like a high school report - six pages to tell one something already known. He was quite disappointed in it.
Published 4 months ago by Heart O'Mine
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Writing books out there
This is one of the best how to write books out there, even after all these years! GEt it now!
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Direct and to the point - very helpful
I own over a dozen books on the subject, but this is the one I go to first and foremost. Card puts his finger on the essence of the subject.
Published 7 months ago by RJK
5.0 out of 5 stars terrific book
An expert author gives expert advice. Great insight on characters and their POV, just as the title promises. I highly recommend to anyone who is a writer.
Published 7 months ago by Stephanie R. Sanderson
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, basic development lessons
Many good point to the complicated art of creating characters. It goes beyond just naming a character and delves into the 'who' you character is and ''why'. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Mury2598
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Helpful.
I have read this book more than once and found its advice very useful in my writings on several occassions.
Published 10 months ago by Kagome
5.0 out of 5 stars Those Who Can't Do, Teach
This is actually a very good, insightful book. My review is based on the 1988 edition, which I just finished re-reading. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Corwin
4.0 out of 5 stars Super helpful to a rookie.
My friends mocked me for picking this up while I was preparing a cartoon pitch; "I read that in college, psssh! Read more
Published 13 months ago by Stephalopod
5.0 out of 5 stars 'The writer's friend ...'
Very useful text. I am in the process of re-writing a novel and this is a great benchmark. Very easily followed.
Published 20 months ago by Mrs. Mary Mason
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Start
This book is a good starter package for character development. It is easy to read and the author has many successful books. Read more
Published on March 30, 2012 by D. Singh
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