Mandy Eve-Barnett's Official Blog

Inspiration for Writers & Building A Community ©

Characters – The Hub of Your Narrative…

December 22, 2014
mandyevebarnett


articlesWithout characters our stories would have no real impact on our readers. We write to engage and intrigue them and hopefully make our protagonist the character our reader cares about. If your experience is anything like mine, there is usually one, or possibly two characters, that make their presence known in no uncertain terms. They want the starring role in our narrative. These characters are usually more defined in our minds and are ‘easier’ to relate to, whether because of a personality trait or that they are more fun to write. When creating the protagonist and antagonist in our stories, we give each opposing views and/or values. This is the basis of the conflict that carries our readers along their journey. Each character, whether major or minor, needs to have flaws and redeeming features, motivations, expectations, loyalties and deterrents.

character-development

This leaves us with the problem of developing our supporting characters with as much attention to detail as the main antagonist and protagonist. 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, this can be achieve mainly by utilizing character’s names, personality traits, appearance and their motivations. A name is a vital part of creating a mental image of our character for readers. The right name can give them a quick visualization of our character’s age, ethnicity, gender, and even location, and if we are writing a period piece, even the era. For example if I say the girl was called Britney, you would probably picture a young girl because of the association with Britney Spears. However, if a female character were called Edith or Edna, you would imagine someone born several decades ago. So you see a name is not just a name.

A burly man would be called something like Butch but not Shirley, unless of course you are going to tell the story of his struggle throughout childhood to overcome the name.  There are plenty of web sites available, which list the most common names for each decade and locations around the world.  These are great resources for writers, who require particular names for period stories or want to stay true to a certain decade.

Character Cube

The use of a nickname will also give your character an identity, be it an unkind one given by a bully or one of respect or fear for the bully. You would expect Big Al to be just that, a large person, however, Little Mikey would be the exact opposite. Nicknames, or sobriquet’s can work very well in defining an ethnicity as well but care must be taken not to offend a person of color. Obviously there are certain words that were in common usage decades ago that are not politically correct now, so we need to be diligent in their use.

We should also consider giving our characters a conscience. Will the hero question his actions if they are extreme to his morals? Does the villain have a deep-seated angst? What motivates them? Some flawed characters can be difficult to write on occasion as they are far removed from our own personality (well I certainly hope so!) but with care we can accomplish a believable character.

How do you set about building a character?

Do you write out a full description of your characters?

Have you based a character on someone you know, a famous personality or mixed up several people’s traits to make a new one?

Inherent Uniqueness…

October 2, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Inherent – definition: existing in someone or something as a permanent and inseparable element, quality, or attribute

handsgrasped

We are all unique beings, even twins have their own personalities, likes and dislikes. Many years ago, I knew twins, who were so dissimilar it was hard to comprehend. One was an ‘earth mother’ wanting to be married with lots of children, the other the absolute opposite, wanting nothing to do with a family life but driven to become a business woman and fiercely independent. Even though they were identical in looks; until one cut her hair short; (you can guess which one!) they could not have been more different. They shared the same gene pool, the same womb and facial features but even those conditions did not define them as individuals.

What makes us different? Nurture or nature? It is a question that has been researched, discussed and pondered for many decades. Some experiments were utterly cruel in the name of science, such as the case of Bruce Reimer (Brenda). http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/horizon/dr_money_prog_summary.shtml  This is not just a tragic story but horrifying in its detail. Even though Bruce was conditioned to believe he was a ‘girl’ he knew that he was not and suffered dreadfully.

Acceptance of our true self is a basic need for all of us, whatever that may be, as long as we do not force our beliefs and views onto other people. How dull would the world be if we were all the same – clones if you will – thinking and behaving exactly the same?

Do you have a unique trait or know someone who has?

As writers creating unique characters for our narrative is paramount. It draws our readers into the story and hopefully engages empathy with the characters and their plight. As in real life there is an unlimited amount of personality types to choose from or create.

Blog at WordPress.com.