Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Walk in Their Shoes, Making Characters Real!

How much time and thought do you put into a fictional character?

There is more to a great fiction character than looks, a name and a general idea about what that character is like. The development of a character never ends, every page that is written should be written with the consideration of each character as a person in relation to everything that is happening. It's so easy to get caught up in the plot and dialogue and loose focus on the characters, so I am trying to put more thought into it, and walk in their shoes.

To walk in your characters shoes, however you need to know whose shoes you are getting into :)
There are three main things to think about -

One. The characters personality or soul... who is he/she inside? Not many real people fluctuate their personalities too dramatically in real life, unless there is medicinal influences :) So if your character stands up to a monster one minute and then is afraid of monsters two chapters later, the character is going to loose credibility with the reader, unless there is a reason (that is explained) for the sudden swing in mental status.

Two. The characters speech... Not every one talks the same, and I don't mean accents or language. If you have a group of real people together in a room ther are not all going to speak in the same way. Some people have certain words that they say more often than others (mine is 'like', how annoying), Some people swear, some people ramble, some people get confused when they are trying to get their point across and others don't say much (or enough) at all.

Three. The characters movement... Movement and body language is a huge part of what make a person real. A movement can tell you what a person is thinking or doing or feeling just as well as words can. Body language and also be something unique to a specific person, such as posture or a habit. Some people stand tall, some people slouch. Some people bite their lip, pull their ears, scratch their chin and all of these things could be significant to the way that person is feeling or thinking and could tell an observer a lot about the person with out a single word being said.

All three of these things all link up in such an intricate way that the resulting person is as individual as you can get.
If a person has a dark personality and says, "Get out of my way." with a dangerous smile, you would get out of their way, wouldn't you.
If a person has a bubbly personality and says, "Get out of my way." with a happy smile, you would smile with them and share the joke.

I was stuck on a paragraph the other night so I sat down and started thinking about all the different feelings and emotions I could come up with....
Happy, Sad, Angry, Embarrassed, Hateful, Spiteful, Trusting, Distrusting, Jealous, Fearful, Lonely, Hopeless, Flirtatious, Deceitful, Honest, Loving, Cruel, Disgusted, Respectful, Shocked, Surprised, Pained, Sarcastic, Loyal, Frustrated, Desired, Violated, Powerful, Confident, Self-conscious, Energized, Lazy, lethargic, Exhausted, Heartbroken, Betrayed, Peaceful, Anxious, Panicked, Apprehensive, Dubious, Optimistic, Shy, Confused, Joyous, Satisfied, Accomplished, Failed, Determined, Eager, Reluctant, Ignorant, Judgemental, Irritable, thoughtful, Calm, Reverent, Adoring, humble, egotistical, Greedy, Guilty, Apologetic, Murderous, Hesitant, Worried, Dutiful, Relaxed, Appreciative, Grateful, Brave, Serious, Carefree, Grudging, Regretful, Victorious, Rational, Irrational, Secure, Dominant, Safe, Cautious, Guarded, Willing, Concerned, Intrigued, Approving, Disapproving, Questioning,  Somber     ..... and so on and so on.
Who is your character?
What kind of person your character is can make all the difference to how they will react or feel in a situation. As an example I will give an event followed by a couple of different characters reactions

The character has just killed a man in self defense!

One is a young boy who has run away from home to join the army and the excitement of war. So far in the story he has been seen as cocky, boastful and eager to get involved in the bloody battles of his glorified war, even though he has never fought before in his life.
One is over come with emotion after he has killed a man for the first time. He is sickened with the realisation that war and killing is nothing like he imagined. The guilt, regret and visions of the dead man's face will keep him up at night.

Two is a renegade mercenary who has been separated from his company when they were over-run two days earlier. The man he killed had attacked two when he had tried to steal the man's food.
Two shows no emotion at all. Instead he wipes of his blade and proceeds to eat the food he has just obtained beside the still warm body of the man he just murdured. Two may even stay the night there, before leaving the body, unburied, to rot of the forest floor.

Three is a lone woman, travelling on her own. She has just left her home in order to flee her violent husband when she is set upon by a brigand in the woods who seeks to violate her. 
Three sheds a tear for the man she has killed, despite her hard life she is still a kind, caring and compassionate woman. So while she is saddened by the death she has cause, years of abuse have taught her to control her emotions when the situation calls for it. Out of respect for the gods she covers the man's body with rocks and continues on her way. 

Dialogue, Tone and Meaning.
Dialogue is an important part of your story, so long as you remember that dialogue is more than just words, it is a conversation between people. A section of speech that is filled with said, asked and replied is not only extremely boring for a reader, but also leave much room for confusion and misinterpretation. 
If a reader can not determine the tone or intended meaning of a characters words, then how can they know what they are supposed to feel about them. As a writer, the last thing you want to do is confuse your reader, and have them unwittingly that you character is a jerk when he is supposed to be an angel.

 Descriptive verbs, facial expression and body language, when used with your words, can help your reader create an accurate mental picture of the scene that is unfolding mental picture of the scene as it unfolds. For example...

"My name is John."
The man smiled. "My name is John," he introduced himself, cheerfully.
"My name is John," He muttered, avoiding her gaze.
"My name is John," he choked weakly, a trickle of blood escaping from the corner of his mouth.
"My name is John," Said the shopkeeper, his eyes narrowing (with suspicion)

Some more lists :)
Descriptive Verbs 
Said,  Replied,  Asked,  Answered,  Argued,  Shouted,  Complained,  Screamed,  Whispered,  Muttered,  Choked,  Spluttered,  Growled,  Spat,  Laughed,  Giggled,  Chuckled,  smiled,  Grinned,  Echoed,  Repeated,  Uttered,  Roared,  Barked,  Added,  Interrupted,  Joked,  Threatened, Admitted,  Asserted,  Indicated,  Presented,  Proposed,  Inferred,  Recommended,    
Suggested,  Denied,  Decided,  Reiterated,  Repeated,  Explained,  Criticized,  Revealed,  Concluded,  Addressed,  Commended,  Moaned,  Gasped,  Described,  Implied,  Presumed,  Yelled,  Offered,  Sighed,  Stated,  Bowed,  Nodded,  Motioned,  Gestured,  Breathed,  Cursed,  Shrugged, Yawned,  Snorted,  Swore,  Grimaced, Continued,  Commanded, Demanded,  Pointed, Objected, Beamed,  Blushed,  

I am working at the moment on a list of different, expressions, actions and behaviours and the varying contexts in which they can be used but it got a bit long so I might post it later when I am done. 
Laters, E 

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