Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Looking for Character Depth?


Characters are reflected in their actions and thoughts. But let's think around the box, the box being the inner workings of our character. Okay, let's dip into the box a little as we think about characterization.

Here's some think-fodder:
1. Clothing. Designer brands, thrift shop or frumpy. Colors--vibrant, prints, black. Shoes: Italian, hiking boots, worn joggers with knotted laces, flats, pumps, loafers, scuffed or highly polished, heels worn or not.

2. Jewelry: None or some or fully decked. Why? Gift from a loved one, a trinket given as a personal award, or worn as protection (there are many amulets in jewelry), or This Goes With This Outfit.

3. Cars or bikes: Mountain bikes or English Racers, girls or boys, discount brand or used or spiffy and personally fitted. Cars: budget, new, dented, worn seats, high brand, SUV or compact gas saver. Tires, worn, etc. You get the picture.

4. Speech Patterns: Regional traces, foreign language, hesitant, polished, terse or use of idioms, or unable to correctly state familiar sayings.

The previous three say much about the character's personal choices. About why they made those choices. So if they are choosing for looks, what do they see in their mirrors and what kind of mirrors do they prefer anyway?

All good stuff. But there's the peripheries that I love....

1. Those mirrors. Framed and ornate or plain budget and where do they hang. What does the character see when he/she inspects their morning reflection. It's Michael Jackson's Man in the Mirror time. Being honest time when no one else is around, i.e. Who am I really? Delve deep into this mirror.

2. This leads us to Things, much like specially chosen jewelry above, for remembrances. A hand drifting across a smooth wood can lead the character into a loving thought of how it was fashioned with a grandfather's gnarled hands, beadwork by a mother now deceased. Anger for the drunk driver who took away her life, the firm promise that beadwork placed on her grave when the killer is caught.

But here's the big scoop...Moving Onward in the peripheries: How do other people react to the character. (See the dinosauer above? Almost friendly isn't he? But me thinks he grins too much.

What friends want to be near this person, or stay away and why. Do they touch or hug or do that male shoulder-punching thing, fist to fist whatever? Does their body language reflect tension or anger and coldness.

Animals: Great insights to characters. How do animals respond to the character? How does the character respond to animals?

Children: Some people automatically draw children and make them feel safe. Others don't.

SIDEKICKS: Subcharacters shore up the main characters and cannot say enough about Sidekicks or lack there of when it comes to characterization.

Think of characterization in the latter instances as the character in the center of a reflecting pattern of people, children, pets revolving around said character and physically demonstrating how they feel about that character.

"We are what friends we choose." How many times have you heard that? But in writing, what if we aren't?

Do consider the character reflection in the latter's reaction to the character.
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cassandrajade said...

Great post and some really good suggestions in creating believable characters. By the way, I thought the dinosaur was freaky.

Cait London said...

He's smiling, Cassandra :) And you have to wonder about his true feelings, if he is a true friend. The other dinosaur looks more friendly, doesn't he? The teddy bear is just one of those warm, friendly people you can always count on.

Caroline said...

Thanks for the great tips, Cait!!