For the second outside reading opportunity, I watched Craftwork with Jennifer Egan. Her panel was interesting as she mentioned something within the first minute that related to me completely. She said that when she writes her first draft, she does it “unconsciously”. She really lets her ideas down on the paper and sorts out the mess later, it’s something that I feel makes the creative process much more enjoyable and allows the story to feel more organic.
She goes on to talk about characterization and about the ways that characters interact with other parts of fiction. She poses the question, how can we suggest a whole human being. Jennifer immediately follows that up with the idea that consistency is not good for character development as it takes some parts away of what it means to be human. Humans are filled with surprises and spontaneity, to deprive your characters of the same aspect of human nature makes the reader disinterested in your story. Without surprises it becomes a fairly boring story. Characters that have consistency to them feel familiar, so familiar that we are able to put them into a category with other characters based on the same personality type. Meeting the same characters over and over again but with different names can really drag down a story.
During her talk about character consistency, she raises a point that it messes with time after a certain point within the novel. After a while it is hard to believe that a person would make the same choices given the same situation. People tend to grow throughout their lifetime, and characters within a story are no exception. So it is ridiculous to impose the idea that these character’s personalities are immune to the effect of time. That being said, Jennifer cites Jane Austin as an example of a writer who enjoys dealing with consistent characters, and implementing them successfully into a story. Jane Austin’s successful implementation of consistent characters really shows that fiction is very flexible in its design. But since Jane is one of the fair few who can do this successfully, Jennifer suggests that surprise and contradiction are easier concepts to work into your character development.
Another topic that Jennifer touched upon was initial characterization, which is a form of introduction of the character through “two way description”. The character is being described through a brief overview of some of their preferences, and Jennifer stressed that contradiction can give all the information that we need to know about the specific character in a short period of time. There are certain times where the writer cannot give a very descriptive back story for the reader to accurately tell the reader how this character was influenced. Sometimes the writer can only give bits and pieces of choices that the character has made throughout their life, and allow the reader to fill in the blanks. I found her lecture on how to improve as a writer to be really interesting, she expanded on a fair amount of concepts and even disproved the idea that consistency is good for your characters. She spoke clearly and had many different works and writers to cite from to reinforce her ideas.