Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Resources for Writers

On Getting to Know Your Characters

ThisHasNothingToDoWithYou coverSMALLLast night, in a class I’m taking, the instructor talked about how we never know what our art really is until it goes out into the world. The truth of this struck me hard, as I’m in the process right now of watching my second novel embark on its first journey into the world (it came out in early September).
 
For me, the power in this novel is not really the plot. Instead, it’s the characters. Mainly, it is Mel, the protagonist, who spends the course of the story floundering about, making one bad decision after another, as she attempts to get her life back on track.
 
She has good reason for going a bit sideways, of course. A few years before the ‘now’ of the book, April into May of 1994, her mother shot and killed both her father and her father’s mistress (don’t worry, I’m not giving anything away).
 
As you can see, this is a weighty scenario. Grief, trauma, loss are all part of the emotional reality of both Mel and her brother, Matt, and to be honest, just writing it out like this makes me feel tired. If I were in the reader’s shoes, I might think: I’ve got enough tragedy in my own life. Do I really need to read more?
 
The answer, of course, is no. Not if that’s all there is. Not if the writer - in this case, me - is only asking you to witness the terrible circumstances of these paper dolls marching about on the open pages, one dreadful plot point after the next. Who needs that?
 

Resource Categories

Blogs on Craft

On the Building Blocks of Fiction

Tips on how to craft vivid scene that allows the reader to experience events right along with the characters.

On Finding Your Big Idea

Insights into the writing process and what a writer's day really looks like, as well as perspectives on research and writing from real life.

On Getting to Know Your Characters

Advice on the many ways you can make your characters come alive on the page for both you and your reader.

On Deciding on Point of View

What is the best perspective from which to tell your story? Writers discuss how they made choices on point of view and voice.

On Choosing Your Situation and Setting

Writers talk about how they use situation and setting to build story and convey emotion.

On Developing Conflict and Structure

From how to work in different genres to finding the real story, writers offer good advice on building conflict and structure.

On Revising

Tips on how to gain distance from your work and to how to re-imagine your next draft.

On Publishing

Writers offer practical advice on the business of writing and promotion, and on the importance of finding a writing community.

On Making a Living as a Writer

Writers offer words of wisdom on living on less.

On The Writer's Life

Writers talk about their life as a writer.

About Gail

Gail's novels have been national and international bestsellers and two have been short-listed for the Giller Prize, among other awards. She works with writers from around the world on her online teaching forums.