Saturday, March 14, 2009

Making Characters Come Alive and Copyright Issues

In a message on the WRP loop, the editor who's working on my book recommended these books for authors:

  1. How to Build Story People by Dwight Swain
  2. How to Read a Person Like a Book by Gerard Nierenberg
  3. Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress
I only found one of them (the third) available at the local library, but Nan's helpful hints came just in time. I've just finished Blue Velvet and find my characters lacking--rather one-dimensional. I plan to read it before tackling the revision of BV and hope to improve Celeste, Kent, Nick, Coralee, and other minor characters.

In the March 2009 issue of The Writer, "Breathe Life into Your Characters" by Sam McCarver offers some good suggestions (paraphrased here) for character-building. They need:

  • an independent life
  • their feelings demonstrated by actions, dialogue, and thoughts
  • goals that challenge and give meaning to their existence
  • their own distinct characteristics shown through habits and personality traits
  • their imperfections
  • names consistent with their personalities and the part they play in the story
  • real-life relationships that show they're human

I'm anxious to see what Nancy Kress has to say, too. When my own characters don't live in my heart and soul, I know they need more developing, and that's the case with the characters in BV.

I've also been struggling with copyright issues surrounding song lyrics, poems, and quotes that I like to use in my writing. Usually (there could be exceptions) songs written before 1922 are considered in the public domain. I wanted to use two lines from a song with the same title as my novel, but reading other authors' takes on the subject, it wasn't even worth trying to track down the copyright holder and get permission---not was it worth the risk of being the subject of a lawsuit!

In the search for information, I stumbled on two books which look helpful:

  1. Getting Permission: How to License and Clear Copyright Materials Online and Off by Richard Stim
  2. The Public Domain: How to Find Copyright-free Writings, Music, Art, and More by attorney Stephen Fishman.
I checked the second rather hefty volume out of the library yesterday, but I may order it as a permanent resource if it proves useful.

Characters and copyright---both are haunting me these days! Hopefully, I'll improve the first and not make any missteps with the second! As for the article I mentioned earlier, I'm taking for granted that using the ideas here is similar to writing a research paper: I have not quoted them word for word, and I have given credit both to the author and the source.


nlindabrit said...

Thank you for this interesting post, which has made me think about areas of writing and publication that had not previously occurred to me.

K9friend said...

So much to learn, isn't there? Gosh and I always thought writing a story that satisfied me was the hard part!