It is part of the art of story writing to describe our characters in such a way our readers can make up their own mental image of them. The trick is to ensure you give your reader enough description without over doing it and boring them – or worse still taking them out of the narrative.
What devices do you use for characterization?
This link from James Thayer is awesome for characterization points:
When creating characters we must remember to ensure that each character acts and responds true to their given personality. Character profiles are a good way of ‘getting to know’ our characters. Here are a few examples but obviously you can tailor make your own depending on your genre.
With such a guideline our characters become clearer. A lot of the details will never reach the pages of our manuscript but knowing our characters well makes for a more believable personality as they struggle through the trials and tribulations we subject them to. As most of you know I am a ‘free flow’ writer so everything is by the seat of my pants until the editing starts. This is where I find character flaws or great character traits that I can correct or build upon. My characters live with me during the writing process and usually lead me in directions I had never considered – I’m sure many of you can relate to that. As these personalities gain strength they become more ‘real’ and that is the moment their true selves appear.
Do you have any tips regarding character profiles or character building?
Nadir – definition: 1) the lowest point; 2) the point of the celestial sphere that is directly opposite the zenith and directly under the observer.
Aurora Borealis observed in Norway on 2006-10-28. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I could relate star gazing experiences or the fantastic moments I have witnessed the aurora borealis here in Alberta but my mind went to the characters and parts of a story we can overlook. When we are engaged in writing about our main characters and their story they are our primary focus. We can neglect what is literally under our noses. The interaction with secondary characters can be an artful way of enhancing our main character. Their reaction to someone else will illustrate their personality more effectively than using endless descriptions. Of course secondary characters can also be important in their own right not only implementing momentum in the story arc but also as individual characters with their own ‘lives’ that are affected by the circumstances they and our main character find themselves in.
Even the smallest detail can eject your reader from a scene. Would a historically set story really have burgers on the menu? Would a character wear a wristwatch? This is where research is vital for accuracy and to ensure your reader totally believes in the world your characters inhabit. The choice of weapons, clothing and social conventions build your world making it all the more believable. A Victorian lady would not go on a girls night out but entertain a few friends in the parlour during the day. A space commander would probably not spend his evenings knitting. Pirates use a cutlass, an alien a laser.
No matter your genre, your world building must have rules, structure and conventions that your hero is fighting to maintain or struggling against. Their methods and actions must reflect what is available to them and most importantly it must be believable.
Desultory– definition : 1) marked by lack of definite plan, regularity, or purpose. 2) not connected with the main subject; 3) disappointing in progress, performance, or quality.
Well this is certainly a word we can all relate to. In a perfect world we would be allowed to write, create and dream up our stories without interruption. But real life has a habit of intruding – laundry, housework, meal preparation, time with family…well you get the picture. I will admit there are times I just want to be left alone, in a Greta Garbo kind of way!
So let’s take each numbered definition at a time. Number one – lack of a plan, regularity or purpose. Whether a casual writer or a professional one, time to immerse ourselves in our creations is important. To enable us to have that time we have to engineer ‘writing time’ in any manner that works within our individual life styles. Maybe, like me, you work full time, have children at home and a household to run. Where can you squeeze in writing? This is dependent on a great many things, such as the age of your children, how stressful your job is and how much ‘help’ you get from your significant other. With careful planning and a schedule you can balance wants and needs. You may display a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door of a room you can escape into, plug in head phones or leave the house altogether. Whatever works for you is best. The main thing is to have the understanding of your family that ‘writing time’ is an important element in your life.
Number two relates, I feel, to character building. As we delve into a new character and his or her struggles, we need a real sense of their character, likes and dislikes and how they would react to certain situations. If we cannot connect with them the plausibility of their reactions will suffer. Whatever device works for you go with it. Character sketches, research into personality types or people watching are all great ways to know your character better. This will ensure whatever obstacles they come against their reaction and coping skill level will be believable.
The last definition is one we all know and is related to our self belief in our abilities. We have all berated ourselves at one point or another when a plot does not work, a deadline is not going to be met or we are unhappy with how we have written something. Take heart in the knowledge that no-one is immune to these thoughts and feelings. Use your support system to help you. This might be your writers group, a mentor or a supportive family member, whatever or whomever it is don’t consider yourself alone. Reach out and bounce your ideas off them, receive their encouragement willingly. You may have to revise a character, a story line or perspective but you can do it – just believe your muse is with you.
Have you suffered with desultory feelings? How did you overcome them?