Friday, September 14, 2012

Building Character

.

Creating a character can be far more complex than people realize.  Even more complex than we as writers realize when we begin this journey.  For the next few posts, I am going to share some of the insight I have learned from conferences, friends and the intense editorial process with my publisher in regards to creating believable, multi dimensional characters.

.
Today we'll hit on
.
Using one character as a lens for another
.
A very important concept, as it performs a double duty.  It offers dimension on BOTH characters...the one who is thinking/talking/reacting and the one who is causing that thought or reaction.
.
It would be easy to have a character say something like...
.

Mom put green beans on my plate.  I hate green beans.  They look like chopped up zombie fingers.

.

not bad.

.
but much stronger, and also a way to include variety in your writing, is to have another character say something like...
.

Mom scooped a mound of green beans onto Frankie's plate.  As if Frankie ate green beans.  As if Frankie ate green anything. 

.

This does two things:  it lets us know Frankie isn't much of a veggie eater.  It also lets us know this second character is a little sassy and thinks Frankie gets away with more than he should.  Hey!  I just thought of a third thing..it lets us know a little bit about mom, too. 


The trick with all these concepts is moderation, of course - but using one character as a way to see more about another character is a great writing method. 
.

Tell Me:  Do you do this?  If you're a reader not a writer, do you notice this in books you enjoy?

6 comments:

Marcia said...

I do this, and you're absolutely right. But I have to say that in this case the phrase "zombie fingers" wins me over to Frankie's own voice. :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

That's a wonderful suggestion. The only issue is you'd have to have multiple viewpoints, but if you do it really adds dimension to characterization. Although it would be possible to do it in dialogue, too. Seems like it would be a super tool during revision.

Tess said...

Marcia: glad you liked the zombie fingers...it's in homage to my 13 y/o son who is all-things-zombie right now

Tricia: you are absolutely right - I hadn't thought that issue through far enough, had I? Very insightful of you. I like the idea of it being a revision tool or something to flesh characters out. Man, I'm going to have to give this more thought...

Corey Schwartz said...

Tess, thanks so much. I've been in such a crazy book launch frenzy, that I forgot to tell you that the books arrived! Much appreciated :)

Tess said...

Corey: I'm so excited for your book! I have it on preorder ... and am planning on doing a picture book spotlight when it comes. Congrats, friend!

Anne Marie Schlueter said...

Oh, yes, this is so true! And, just like you said, even every time I start a new character, I don't realize how complicated the process will turn out to be. . . .but what a wonderful process it is!