Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

By Ekta R. Garg

March 13, 2013

In undergoing this yearlong writing workshop, I decided that I needed to focus on the various aspects of writing: character building, the setting of a story, constructing a compelling plot, and more.  In this first book of the workshop, Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card I got to dig deep into the idea of character.  Of what it means to construct a compelling character and how to sustain that character for the duration of a story.

The book offers sound advice on every page; I took copious notes, and despite its length of 225 pages the material is pretty dense (which is why it took me two months instead of one to finish; I had to read a few pages at a time, digest them, and then jump in again.)  I wouldn’t recommend this to writers who have never written anything, however.  I feel writers who have had some experience in writing would probably benefit the most from Characters and Viewpoint.  Also, although Card updated the book recently, many of his references date the book (for example, he talks at one point about “Beverly Hills Cop” starring Eddie Murphy.)  I’m a little surprised the editors and Writer’s Digest allowed the book to be published with such old examples.

Overall, though, I felt like I learned a lot, and I found two main thoughts that I felt comprised the main themes of the book (these are either direct quotes or my paraphrasing of Card’s amazing instruction):

1. Often when you are blocked, the reason is that you have forgotten or have not yet discovered what is extraordinary about your main character.  Ask yourself: why does this character’s story matter to me?

2. The tools of realism are designed to present details about a character appropriately and effectively and that’s how you make characters more believable: details.

I attended some writing workshops last summer at our local library, and in the first one author Paul Genesse said this: Writers who write really great plots write great books.  Writers who write really great characters have great careers.

With the tools and lessons I learned from Card’s Characters and Viewpoint, I hope to have a great career myself one day.

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