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Hello, writers. Sorry I didn’t stick around very long last week—was coming down with the flu as it turned out. Mostly over it now except this nasty way of hanging around it has. A 99.2 kind of way, you know what I mean?

We talk about character a lot here at WO. Character is probably the most important aspect of modern fiction. Two or three generations ago, it was plot. Back then characters, especially in genre fiction, could get away with only one name—first if female, last if male—and no background at all. (I’m not saying this was always the case, but it often was.) What mattered was an intricate plot, with an O. Henry twist.

Nowadays readers get annoyed if the plot feels contrived, if events seem to be brought about by the writer rather than the characters.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about comic strips. Nowhere are characters so efficiently developed as in comic strips.

Comic strips contain very few words spread over a wide temporal space. You get maybe 10-50 words a day,  say 100-200 words a week. And yet comic strip characters tend to be be very clearly delineated. You always know what they will do in a given situation because it never varies. Charlie Brown will always kick the football and then always feel sorry for himself afterward. The guy in the wide-brimmed hat on www.xkcd.com will always do something nasty.

There’s something to be said for having characters who will always….

They can be great fun to read, great fun to write, and they’re a lot like real life. (You know people who will always react in a certain way or do a certain thing, right?) And if the character actually manages to break free from always, even if only momentarily… well, that’s even more fun to read and write.

Anyway. As I’ve mentioned before, NaNoWriMo is approaching. But it’s bad timing. We’ve got an election on our hands, and for reasons that are unclear to me, it’s a close one. So just in case you don’t have time to write 50,000 words in November… tonight’s challenge is for you.

This one is thanks to Melanie in IA.
Give us a six word character sketch.

I suggest the six words be all dialogue.

They can be description if you want, though. Or action. Or whatever.

Do as many as you like.

For anyone who’s at the querying stage with a manuscript, here’s an unusually helpful post about how to write query letters. (There’s a lot of advice on this subject out there on the internets and much of it is wrong.)
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