Thursday, August 19, 2010

A TIMEX OR A PADDED CELL?

WHAT MAKES YOUR CHARACTER TICK?

Wonderful characters don’t happen by chance. They are created. Just as if they were mixed together in a test tube with all the right (or wrong) chromosomes. What does the test tube, or better yet, natural origins, say about your character?

Did he have such a horrible childhood that he’s now a sniper on top of a tower (every mom’s nightmare the first time her son behaves in a bizarre manner).
Or is she so narcissistic that she’s grows up to become a sociopath?

I’d like to include a progression for developing a character. Hope you enjoy.

A male character says, “She was beautiful.”
This means something different to each person. What does it mean from your character?

Go deeper.

Hair flew around her shoulders until, like threads of spun gold, it brought out the shine in her eyes. Her lips, plump and sweet, smiled at him.

Is this enough? Do we know who she is yet? Still deeper. Add a layer. Tell us even more about her than she was merely beautiful.

Her eyes covered him in pleasure, like liquid silk. Soft hands, those of an angel, like when he was sick, brushed his cheek. Her lips, warm and inviting caused his heart to thicken in his chest. He had to move, had to look away, even pluck his eye out if he had to.
“Mother! Leave me alone!”

We managed to create an Oedipus all from she was beautiful.

Don’t be afraid to dig deep to bring out the best (or the worst) in your characters.

Develop your characters as if your life depended on it.
In suspense, it truly does.

10 comments:

  1. This was soooooo good at the conference, Linda! Almost gave me goose bumps!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks! It is a great way to make a character visually alive to the reader rather than just to say she is beautiful. He was hot! His face contorted strangely. What does that mean??? We need to be exact in what we write so the reader can 'see' it clearly in their heads. Yeah, glad you enjoyed it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for the lesson 'go deeper'. I need to practice this more with my characters. Sometimes they seem so lifeless...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great post, Linda--it helps to see exactly how it's done.

    You asked how we develop characters. One thing I do is use the FW challenge topics to "discover" something new about my novel characters. I delve into the past--maybe childhood, maybe the dating years--or maybe even the future. The topic forces me to look at these characters from fresh angles. Sometimes what I write actually makes it into the novel--more often, though, it just helps me learn more about who they are, what they would say/do and why.

    Your presentations at the conference were exceptional--and that's no smoke:)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks so much, I appreciate the feedback. Helps to know what to do better next time. Sounds like you are spot on in developing characters. It's true they need pasts, presents, and probable futures. That really gives them dimension.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks, Linda! What a great example. "She was beautiful" can mean so many things--but you showed us EXACTLY what it meant.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great post! Something I could def. work on too. thanks for such a strong example

    ReplyDelete
  8. Linda, what a great post. Thanks for the nudge to delve deeper into our characters and descriptions of them. Makes so much sense when you write about it!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great post, Linda! I'm blessed to have you as a crit partner!

    ReplyDelete