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Author Topic: Characterization -- Part 6  (Read 5263 times)

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Bob Mueller

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Characterization -- Part 6
« on: October 17, 2006, 11:01:50 PM »

 Date:         Saturday, March 13, 1999 03:48 AM

BookMarc #18
Characterization - part 6

Let's finished the topics of our character work-up we started in BookMarc #17.

Mannerisms and Quirks. We all have them. Little ticks that we don't recognize because they are part of us. When I stand and talk to people, I usually find my hands folded in front of me. I knew of a man who keeps punctuating his speech by blowing air out his nose, sort of an opposite sniff. I know another who's always rubbing his nose, and ballplayers are always adjusting their crotch. All of these things not only make up the character and help us see them more clearly, but they can also be used as dialogue tags. He rubbed his nose, "what a dreary day."

Strengths and Weaknesses. No one is all good or all evil. If you create a Superman you'll have a comic book character. That's not necessarily bad if that's the type of story you want. James Bond is a comic book character, but go back to the first books and you'll see he didn't start that way. The same thing happens if you build a shriveling weakling. Why even have him? But if he's also cunning, now we have someone who could be dangerous. I built a hateful character once, a pervert among other things, and a killer, but he had two young daughters he treated like gold. We need both traits.

Inner Conflicts. These are the things battling for possession of POV characters' minds, and in non-POVs that readers can see and assume. A lot of it ties back into personal history and place in the world topics. It's the conflict that James Dandy grouses about in BLOODY BONSAI when he arrives at an Elderhostel, he shouldn't have come, and yet he hopes it will turn out well. A character could worry about a limited education which keeps him form mixing with people he'd like to know.

Change. We've mentioned this before. What changes take place in her makeup and thinking as a result of the story? We should be able to see some development so that the characters are change by the experience, even if only in a subtle way.

Dialogue Sayings and Comments. Like Mannerisms and Quirks, we all have comments and saying we use all the time w/o realiz ing it. Like: ya know; that's marvelous; what-a-ya-gonna-do; don't you know; and, James Dandy's favorite--great, really great. They can be one worders or whole sentences. These things can be used not only to help define our character, but, as dialogue tags, to identify them as well.

Home. This topic I've added recently. It can add another facet to our character diamond. If a woman keeps a casual or sloppy home, maybe it's because she always playing with her children. A conflict here that first gives a negative which later emphasizes a positive. If a man's house has everything in place, perfectly in-line, doesn't that say something about him? Did she grow up in a mansion, or he in a dirt floor shack? Again, we might not do this for everyone, and it might not be extensive, but if you bring in a house scene, you need to think about it as character defining.

How Do They Make Love. Sex is so much a part of our makeup, how can we not take it into consideration? Does she do it in the afternoon, on rooftops, hanging from a chandelier? Is he obsessed with it, or just the opposite? Do they do it lovingly or clinically? Is it a pure power trip? Kinky, who's on top, grunt and groans, cries in the night. Again, not for everyone.

Okay, that's it. Whew. It takes a fair amount of thinking and putting it all down. Like another story almost. Do we have to do it? Obviously not, because a lot of published writer don't. BUT, if you are not getting results, why not give it a try? If your characters are flat, wouldn't this be worth a shot? Or even if you're having success--do you keep plowing along or take the time to see if this will work? Just once? Or if you are starting out, this is one way to make rounded characters. Why am I stressing it? Because, folks, after seven novels of flat characters, this worked for me. You can fill it out before or after your first draft, or as you go along. I urge you to give it a try.

That's all I know about characterization. I hope it helps. In BookMarc #19 we move on to writing/rewriting. And, as always, all comments, suggestions, rebuttals, or additions gratefully accepted. I can always use feedback.

Copyright Peter E. Abresch BookMarc February 13, 1998
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Bob

Sometimes it takes therapy to put the past behind you. Other times, it takes a 20 gallon trash bag and a couple of cinder blocks.
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