Voices in My Head: Marietta Zacker on the Key Elements of Character


This week, as I begin to dive into the next revision of my Middle Grade novel, I have been hearing a lot of voices in my head.  I know this is pretty normal, I think, for most writers, but amongst the characters, narrators, and even settings that are talking to me, I'm also hearing a particular person's voice, that of agent Marietta B. Zacker (Nancy Gallt Literary Agency). 

Last September I attended a SCBWI lecture given by Ms. Zacker titled  Voices in Your Head. She lead us on a deep, deep dive into the characters who drive our stories. She explored (giving many examples from published works) how main characters affect the voice and style of a book, and what the publishing industry has to say about them. Her talk was energetic, personal, and jam-packed with nuggets of gold. Here are just three that I will share with you:

 1.  A character can't passively float through a plot, she must make decisions and be an active participant!
2.  Heart! A reader needs to share feelings with your characters, not simply feel sorry for them.
3. Your characters must strike the balance of being completely unique, but totally relatable. 

I have three whole pages of notes that I scribbled that evening, but I will leave you only with those three sentences. If you ever have the chance to hear Ms. Zacker speak about the craft of writing, I highly recommend that you do. I promise you that her voice, and her wisdom, will stick in your head...for a while. 

Happy New Year!