We Want Your Opinions

To a large extent, a good heroine has an opinion about everything. Depending on how outrageous they are or how many are unleashed, the character’s opinions may be the main draw of the book, especially in a mystery series. We want to find out what comment Terry is going to make next.

Contrast that with thoughts. You try to insert thoughts for a character who is in earnest pursuit of his goals, and what happens? Yawn. Readers assume, as a given, that a lead character wants to accomplish something during the course of the book. The real question is: are we are going to have fun along the way? If your hero makes swashbuckling remarks as he cleaves a path through his obstacles, we can vicariously enjoy them. If your heroine gives us the low-down on the people she has to deal with, we feel included, like we’re part of her set.

When you add opinions into your mix, a much larger goal can be attained as well. In order for your character to make opinions that are consistent with his personality, you have to think through them first: who is this person? Opinions add up to an attitude, and that is a prism through which your character can view everything that is taking place. So, you’re not just trying to come up with bon mots and witty repartee. You must create that entire attitude.

That only happens, however, when you reach beyond yourself. Think about it: would I want to read about a person who has ordinary opinions? Of course not. I get enough of those at the office. I’m drawn to someone who is larger than life. The opinions she sloughs off are not just scattered along the way. In order to be shocking, you have to inhabit the mind of the person who could come up with a remark like that in the first place. You must become the person making the comments. When the opinions are crackling, you’re in thrall—to the character brave enough to make them.

Exercise: Closely examine any scene you’ve written. Do you find that your character is merely an observer, telling us what other people are doing? The accurate camera lens? Forget that idea. Put a filter on that camera: try to make everything shocking pink, or true blue, or bilious yellow. What does your character have to say about what is happening?

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