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Characters and Viewpoint

(Elements of Fiction Writing)

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  4,407 ratings  ·  385 reviews
Vivid and memorable characters aren't born: they have to be made.

This book is a set of tools: literary crowbars, chisels, mallets, pliers and tongs. Use them to pry, chip, yank and sift good characters out of the place where they live in your memory, your imagination and your soul.

Award-winning author Orson Scott Card explains in depth the techniques of inventing, developi
Paperback, 182 pages
Published March 15th 1999 by Writer's Digest Books (first published 1988)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
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Samir Rawas Sarayji
Characters & Viewpoint is another book by Orson Scott Card from the Writer's Digest Books that failed to impress. The book is 182 pages and is divided into 3 main sections, 'Inventing Characters', 'Constructing Characters', and 'Performing Characters'. Each part is, in turn, divided into smaller chapters.

The first part covers topics that are really for the novice writer, someone who never wrote fiction and one day decided he/she wanted to... It explains how characters can come from people you kn
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Orson Scott Card presents tools and techniques for the novice writer on characters and viewpoint. In his book we learn how to invent a character -- what makes a good fictional character. We discover how to construct a character and the importance of the MICE quotient -- Milieu, Idea, Character and Event. We learn the difference between major and minor characters and between walk-on and placeholder characters. We discuss how to raise the emotional stakes of a character and how we should feel abou ...more
Oct 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
Not my cup of tea when it comes to writing advice. This WD book was very basic and most of the guidance on characterization is focused on creating characters before you start writing and not fleshing out those characters on the page. Toward the end of the book when Card does finally begin to address what happens to characters in the actual novel/manuscript he gets a bit preachy and theoretical and makes more than few statements that I do not believe are accurate around POV and tense.

Overall I f
Alex Sarll
I've just remembered that I read the noted homophobe's writing guide back in my early teens. Even then, I could tell that a lot of his advice was bollocks - I especially remember the bit about how erudite types were inherently unsympathetic, and a smart hero would have to punch a couple of guys for every time he demonstrated his brains. Yep, as demonstrated by the lamentable obscurity in which characters like Poirot and Sherlock Holmes have long languished, right? Pillock. ...more
Ksenia Anske
Oct 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book to help you choose your POV. Whose story are you really telling? And what POV would be best for it? Plus examples (same bits of stories told from different POVs), rules, conventions, pitfalls and advantages of one or the other POV. Also, if you want to learn what melodramatic writing is and how to avoid it (my case), these are a few excellent examples here that will make you "get" it (I certainly "got" it). "If your characters cry, your readers won't have to; if your characters have good ...more
May 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-on-writing
So incredibly helpful! I thought I knew a lot of characters and viewpoints, but this book took it to another level. I made plenty of notes and highlights in it. I can see myself referencing this books for years to come!
Joy Pixley
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
For turning out to be possibly my favorite writing craft book ever, this one started off a bit slow to me. The first and shortest section is about coming up with characters, what makes a character, how to name them. It was fine, well-written, and useful, and you couldn't have a book about characters without these issues, but I didn't see a ton that was really new to me.

The remaining three-quarters of the book was amazing. Having anchored on the first four chapters, I kept finding myself thinkin
Oct 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I read this book at a point where I'd already read a couple dozen books, a hundred Writers Digest magazines, and a zillion web pages on writing. Upon reading this book, I was EMBARRASSED by how much I didn't know! Characters and Viewpoint is required reading for all fiction writers. ...more
Stephanie Bibb
I borrowed this book from another writer at the writer's meeting I attend, since I'm fascinated by the craft of writing. Overall, Orson Scott Card's Characters & Viewpoints book had a lot of insightful information, good stuff to keep in mind when writing and developing characters. Some tips were familiar, while other tips were new or approached a bit differently than I've seen in other sources. I was particularly fond of his explanation of jeopardy, and I found his explanation on developing symp ...more
This has got to be one of the best books about writing. It discusses characterization in depth, with practical tools you can actually use in your fiction.

Other articles I've read about characterization inevitably instructs you to create a complete profile about your character, sometimes giving you a form to fill out, with prompts like favorite color and such things, but they don't really show you how to make these details alive in your story.

Characters and Viewpoint shows you just that, how
K.M. Weiland
Dec 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Intelligent and thought-provoking discussion.
Jan 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Characters and Viewpoint
By: Orson Scott Card
Writer’s Digest Books

Tools for Creating Vibrant Memorable Characters

In “Characters and Viewpoints” Orson Scott Card provides the writer with the tools for constructing colorful credible characters.

Card grabbed my attention as I scanned the table of contents. I immediately followed this by perusing the bold headings within the chapters.

The book is divided into three parts. Card begins with pointers on inventing characters, where they come from, potenti
Grace Wagner
Feb 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is actually the latest book I've read and it's been incredibly helpful. I was having trouble with my new book because it's told from two main characters' POVs in first person. I really felt like I hadn't solidified those characters and I turned to this book to help. The thing I liked best about this book was that it didn't tell you how to create in depth characterization. It asks you the right questions so you get there on your own. It really is a book of tools, not answers, and those tools ...more
Jul 17, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has some good tips for anyone who wants to evolve their characterizations skills.

Unfortunately, the book is not crammed with such tips on every page. A lot of time is spent rehashing the same point over and over from several perspectives until your eyes start to glaze. It is possible that this would be helpful for a complete novice, but for someone who has already got a lot of this writing stuff figured out, it just comes across as a lot of fluff and filler. I will keep the book as a
Mar 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
In this book, Card delved deeper into the subject matter than I've ever seen anyone do before. This is a book I think anyone serious about writing a novel ought to read. It's made even better by the fact that Card's insights apply equally to both literary and mainstream fiction. ...more
Jan 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
This book helped me understand so much about the characterization process - I will return to it many times for reference. Incredible resource for fiction writers.
Allan Walsh
Oct 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card is a non-fiction title designed to assist writers with their character creation as well as other writing techniques.

The Cover: I’m sorry to say that while this is a suitable non-fiction cover with a clear title, I find it rather boring. To me it looks like one of those school books you are required to purchase for the curriculum, only to find you never need refer to it. If not for the title I doubt I’d have picked this one up at all.

The Good Stuff: T
Rod Raglin
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
There's nothing new in books about writing fiction, only on how they're presented.

Some are written by academics and you need to be one to understand them. Others are written by authors who use them as a means of self-aggrandizement constantly quoting examples from their own work. These may not necessarily be good examples of what they're trying to demonstrate, but they're not about to let an opportunity to promote their work slip by.

In Characters and Viewpoint, Card uses straight forward prose
Leif Wallsby
Jul 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did not like the examples used, but I learnt something new or got a new perspective out of most chapters. Not bad at all.
Jan 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Really diverse information which is kind of obvious but still very easy to miss. He includes lots of examples too, great for reference.
May 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: writing-guides

This book had some good ideas on characterization but overall it complicated topics far more than I'd prefer and I found myself skimming as a result.

It wasn't a waste of time but there are books that covers the same ground while also being A. More concise or b. Having more thought provoking content.

There are better books on fiction writing and for it's topics characters and viewpoints it didn't do much in the realm of expert ideas for me.
Joseph Carrabis
Dec 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First and up front, I've never enjoyed an Orson Scott Card book. I could never get into them. They didn't interest me. When a reviewer favorably compared my The Augmented Man to Card's Ender's Game, I scratched my head. Grateful, of course, and still confused.
However, Card's Characters & Viewpoint ?
Another story (forgive the pun) entirely.
Although titled "Characters & Viewpoint", the subtitle is "How to invent, construct, and animate vivid, credible characters and choose the best eyes thr
I'd already heard much of the advice in this book, in part because Mary Robinette Kowal of the Writing Excuses podcast is a fan and refers to it often. It was still worth reading, as it takes the reader through a number of important considerations about characterisation and allied subjects: not only how to use the techniques, but when and why. I highlighted a great many useful and well-considered passages.

Card's basic view of writing is that in telling stories, we are influencing people to expan
Elaine Jemmett
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is the second time I've read this book. After the second time through, I now think I will read it every time I start writing a new novel. I can't recommend it highly enough.

I have read a lot of "how to" writing books, always looking for pointers, or hoping from the blurb that the book will solve whatever problem I'm having at the time. Many of them are useful. A lot of them are junk. I have hardly any on my Goodreads shelves because I usually can't bring myself to give other authors bad rev
Carlos Velez
Apr 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Orson Scott Card writes really great characters. I've read a couple of his Ender novels, and another stand-alone novel called Empire and his characters are really smart and are able to dive into the psychology of the people around them. They understand people and why they are who they are, and why they do what they do. It is most certainly a reflection of the author's own understanding of the inner workings of himself and the people around him. He is able to take his life experiences and create ...more
Chris Bauer
May 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I've oft heard this book referred to as the definitive work on effective use of characters & viewpoint in writing but didn't really believe it - until I was "encouraged" by a pro writer whom I respect highly to dig into it.

I was wrong. It is an invaluable resource for any penmonkey. I know of many authors who have a talent for using just the right technique to depict vivid, dynamic and interesting characters with smooth and consistent use of proper perspective / voice.

I'm not one of them and str
Veronica Morfi
Jun 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Strong and believable characters are the essence of a good book! This book is the perfect guide on how to built this kind of characters. From the very simple things, like their personality to the more complex ones, like the reasons behind their acts, this book explains them all. It is well writen and easy to understand. It can help you create and develop the characters of your story.
I never thought that characters are the most important thing in a story, even if the storyline is not that strong
Ruth Jacobs
Aug 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Writers
Shelves: books-on-writing
Okay, so you know I'm an addict, I read a lot of books on writing, and I'm not done on reviewing them all yet. This was useful in helping me decide which viewpoint to write from and how best to do that. Also what mistakes to avoid making as well. Such as writing a whole novel in third person, when other things are occurring that the protagonist can't know about they cannot be mentioned. But there are clever ways certain things can be shown to the reader through the actions of other characters wh ...more
Phil Nicholls
Nov 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: creative-writing
In the book, OSC split his advice into three broad sections: inventing a character, constructing the plot and how the characters perform. OSC also weaves in his breakdown of the MICE quotient, which also appeared in his other book of writing advice.

I greatly enjoyed this book, finding the advice more useful than his book focused on SF and Fantasy. While the MICE section is skipped through, the overall advice is much more detailed here. I will definitely read this book again to extract the most f
Lynn Joshua
Nov 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Excellent book! Card understands and explains how an author can make his characters believable, fascinating, likeable, or repellant. He has an amazing grasp of human nature, and even if you're not a writer, his book will give you a better understanding of fiction, and new insights into why we act the way we do.

(This is the second time I've read it - and I just finished reading it aloud to my teen sons who love to write fiction.)
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Orson Scott Card is the author of the novels Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow, and Speaker for the Dead, which are widely read by adults and younger readers, and are increasingly used in schools.

Besides these and other science fiction novels, Card writes contemporary fantasy (Magic Street, Enchantment, Lost Boys), biblical novels (Stone Tables, Rachel and Leah), the American frontier fantasy series Th

Other books in the series

Elements of Fiction Writing (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • Beginnings, Middles & Ends (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • Conflict, Action and Suspense (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • Description
  • Dialogue (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • Manuscript Submission
  • Plot
  • Scene & Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • Setting: How to Create and Sustain a Sharp Sense of Time and Place in Your Fiction
  • Conflict and Suspense (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • Voice and Style

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