Help!

I haven’t been reading or responding much to others blogs because I’ve been in thrall to the novel I’m working on. I now have a complete draft meaning I know who the people are and where the story goes, but the characters are incomplete as people.

I thought it would be useful to me (and anyone who might read the book later!) to find out what readers (you) like. I’d be very grateful for answers to the following few questions regarding what you like to see in characters, especially (but not only) characters in historical fiction.

If you could respond in comments it would be great. The most useful way for me would be something simple like V – 2. Other comments are also very much appreciated.

Thank you!

I. How important is it for you to know what the people in the story are wearing?
1 — very important
2 — useful in understanding the era
3 — doesn’t matter to me at all

II. How much detail do you want of how the people live?
1 — I want to know everything
2 — Just enough to get a sense of the time
3 — I only like enough detail to move the story along

III. How much do you want from the author about the personalities of the characters?
1 — A lot. I want the author to describe the characters personalities in detail
2 — Just enough to get a sense of how the characters might act in certain situations
3 — The author should stay out of it and let the characters reveal their personalities through their choices and behavior

IV. How much do you want to know about what the characters look like?
1 — I want detailed description of the appearance of the important characters
2 — Just enough so that I have a sense of who each character is; I’ll fill in the blanks with my imagination.

V. How much description do you want of settings in a story?
1 — Give me a detailed description of every place the characters go. It’s the past and I don’t live there.
2 — I want a sense of the appearance of things — enough description that I know how they conduct their daily lives but not so much that I feel I’m in a museum
3 — I like descriptions of things as the characters themselves notice them because their world is normal to them.

16 thoughts on “Help!

  1. I would have to personally break this down to Main characters and supporting characters.

    MAIN CHARACTERS:

    How important is it for you to know what the people in the story are wearing?
    1 — very important –but not so much it drags on and on and on and on if you can incorporate it into the story instead of listing each item one by one even better.

    How much detail do you want of how the people live?
    2 — Just enough to get a sense of the time, if it’s not important to the story I dont care how its done.

    How much do you want from the author about the personalities of the characters?
    3 — The author should write so the characters reveal their personalities through their choices and behavior. Leave this out of the narrative. Showing is always always always better than just blurting it out in narrative.

    How much do you want to know about what the characters look like?
    1 — I want detailed description of the appearance of the important characters- given subtully and not in any cliché way. Also best not tossed out like a recipe card. Please dont use a mirror.

    How much description do you want of settings in a story?
    1 — Give me a detailed description of every place the characters go. It’s the past and I don’t live there. – This I say yes completely. However some details are redundant. I hate reading an entire chapter on the composition of a wagon wheel or how the saddle sat on the horse. OInce teh setting/time period has been set, I prefer to be reminded with small and meaningful descriptions. I dont like when I read about every deatil of the dress down to the number of buttons or whatnot.

    SUPPORT CHARACTERS

    How important is it for you to know what the people in the story are wearing?
    2 — useful in understanding the era

    How much detail do you want of how the people live?
    2 — Just enough to get a sense of the time – or a sense of the character

    How much do you want from the author about the personalities of the characters?
    2 — Just enough to get a sense of how the characters might act in certain situations However like I mentioned before Show dont tell, let the story give teh reader the impression instead of just saying they are mean. Show how they are mean.

    How much do you want to know about what the characters look like?
    2 — Just enough so that I have a sense of who each character is; I’ll fill in the blanks with my imagination.

    How much description do you want of settings in a story?
    2 — I want a sense of the appearance of things — enough description that I know how they conduct their daily lives but not so much that I feel I’m in a museum – this is only important if it’s relevant to the story. If this is the setting of a lesser character, less is more IMO.

  2. I. How important is it for you to know what the people in the story are wearing?
    2 — useful in understanding the era – Because it’s history, enough so I understand the era. On the whole, though fashion isn’t particularly interesting. To me, anyway.

    II. How much detail do you want of how the people live?
    1 — I want to know everything
    — I want a 1-1/2 here. Not everything, but more than just a bit.
    2 — Just enough to get a sense of the time

    III. How much do you want from the author about the personalities of the characters?
    1 — A lot. I want the author to describe the characters personalities in detail — I like to know the main characters very well, but characters are interesting for me in all books.

    IV. How much do you want to know about what the characters look like?
    1 — I want detailed description of the appearance of the important characters
    — Another 1-1/2. I want to know what they look like, but you can omit fingernails.
    2 — Just enough so that I have a sense of who each character is; I’ll fill in the blanks with my imagination.

    V. How much description do you want of settings in a story?
    1 — Give me a detailed description of every place the characters go. It’s the past and I don’t live there. — this is historical, so if I don’t know what the place was like, it’s hard for me to relate to the rest of the story. I don’t need every single detail, but more than a little bit.

    Hope it helps!

  3. I. How important is it for you to know what the people in the story are wearing?
    2.The way I look at it isn’t so much what I think, as I am an avid reader, but what about whatever “genre gods” out there say. My cousin who writes Bluestocking Regency, had her first manuscript returned over using wrong descriptions with her clothing [yes it was decades ago…however] by calling it a blouse instead of a [shirt]waist.

    II. How much detail do you want of how the people live?
    2. Personally I’d be happy here. But there was a time when this ‘kid from suburbia’ might have needed full descriptions. Question becomes whether you do what Colleen McCullough did with her First Man in Rome series and have an index/codex almost as big as the book itself in the back(my cousins thought that was so helpful I left my paperbacks with them in Germany while I was visiting).

    III. How much do you want from the author about the personalities of the characters?
    1. Ask yourself how do you meet a new person. We take a lot in with our senses, but ” where are you from?” and “What do you do?” are early ways of knowing people. Let’s face it’ a camp cook spouting Einstein might be questionable.

    IV. How much do you want to know about what the characters look like?
    1+2. I want a description with enough ‘wiggle room’ for my imagination.

    V. How much description do you want of the settings in a story?
    1. This is foundationally important. For example, Barbara Taylor Bradford had big gaps of time with the Harte saga[Woman of Substance et.al] as did Robert Vaughn in his American Century series, and even Jan Morgan’s Mitford books. Each one needs a description to (re)introduce the 5 ‘Ws’, or invite a new reader into the story.

    (Hey, I’m a 60 year old pain in the neck who reads/reviews for a living with three cousins who write non fiction, regency and contemporary books. My own favorite genre is historical fiction)

    • Andrea — have a look at my website: marthakennedy.co If there’s anything there you’d like to read and review, I’d be very grateful and could send you any of the novels for Kindle, ePub, PDF.

      With the novel I’m working on now, I am torn between “controlling” some of the characters and letting them “live” if that makes any sense. They are real people but almost nothing is known about them. I’m in the position of having to get them from real-life point A to point B etc. so they must be characters who would make those decisions and take those actions. It’s challenging.

  4. I. How important is it for you to know what the people in the story are wearing?

    2 — useful in understanding the era

    II. How much detail do you want of how the people live?
    1 — I want to know everything

    I’m a period architectural and social freak, so everything.

    III. How much do you want from the author about the personalities of the characters?
    1 — A lot. I want the author to describe the characters personalities in detail

    And sometimes I love surprises, meaning a character doing something out of well, character.

    IV. How much do you want to know about what the characters look like?
    1 — I want detailed description of the appearance of the important characters

    There will literally be film in my mind as I process the writing.

    V. How much description do you want of settings in a story?
    1 — Give me a detailed description of every place the characters go. It’s the past and I don’t live there.

    It sets mood and gives the whole background setting for the story or stories. Photography at its best.

  5. I would go with Number 2 for every question – I like some detail and description but not too much that it slows the story down and not too little that I get no sense of place/time or character – but leave something for my imagination.

    Good Luck

  6. I.
    2-Useful in understanding the era(sometimes clothing can be a symbol of status, so clothing in novels are important ).
    II.
    1-I want to know everything.
    III.
    I. A lot. I want the authors to describe the characters’ personalities in details.
    IV.
    II. Just enough so I that I have a sense of who each character is.
    V.
    I. Please give a detailed description of every place the characters go. It’s the past and I don’t live there.

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