Archive for the ‘Character’ Category

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Conveying Character: A Few Suggestions for the Dance

June 2, 2010

I’ve been fussing about character lately and I thought for my own peace of mind I might clarify the different means by which character is conveyed.  In fact, I’m going to use my own points to create a character right here, now, on the spot,  just to prove that this method works! Ok. Here we go.

1. Physical description. Their looks. Height. Weight. Age. Eye colour. Hair. Dress. Etc.

I think I’ll make him short. Stout. Balding with gray mutton chop sideburns. Ruddy complexion. Beaked nose. Frowning wiry, heavy eyebrows. And jowl cheeks. Dressed in a finely tailored black jacket and waistcoat with beige breeches, all of which accentuates his significant paunch.

2. Speech. This encompasses both what the character says and how they say it.  Are they loud or quiet? Do they command? Simper? Snap? Titter? Are they breathy like Marilyn Monroe? Do they speak in dialect? Have an ‘accent’? (A Scottish brogue, for instance…)

I think I’ll make this character loud, commanding, gruff & adamant. With a voice often thickened with alcohol, he says things like: ‘it’s my opinion that…’

3. Movement. How does your character inhibit space? Do they mince their steps, slam doors, gesture widely, step on peoples toes, clumsily knock over the floor lamp?

Well, I’d say its pretty clear by now that this obnoxious gentleman must park himself in the most central chair in the room, lean heavily on his cane, gesticulate with a pointed finger at whomever he’s talking to, and slap his knee whilst braying widely whenever he makes an (unfunny) joke…

Is my character starting to irritate you? He’s supposed to. I want him to be felt; visceral. And if he irritates you, he’s going to irritate the other characters he meets…and here come plot!

Sometimes my plot develops just because I’ve put two character types in a room together and then seen what happens. For instance, put this guy in a room with, say, his hot-blooded eldest son eager to gain his inheritance….or the quiet daughter who’s finally worked up the nerve to defy him…and that might be all it takes to get the story rolling…

(Watch out, though. This character might surprise you. Maybe he’ll suddenly start weeping, because ever since his wife died he just can’t cope with life very well.  Or maybe not. Characters can be as deep and complex as you like. It all depends on what you need, what mix you want. And what the character will allow…It’s a dance, after all. Sometimes you lead the dance. And sometimes you don’t!)

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Character Morphing: When They Won’t Stay Put!

June 1, 2010

Recently I had a slight, incidental character suddenly morph into a substantial, main character.

What the—?

I know other writers have had this experience of the Character That Would Not Stay Put. You place him in a marginal role—he’s just there as reference, a mere conversation piece—and he shouts ‘NO!’ and starts showing up in person, gaining definition, taking over the place—now he’s courting the heroine—what cheek!

I think this is one of the most magical aspects of writing. The surprises from within the self. The spark of imagination that causes a seismic shift, tilts your writing world sideways…

You might want to run around the room screaming “how could you do this to me?” but in the end you go with it because you know its the right thing to do.

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A Blond, Brunette and a Red-Head?

May 31, 2010



I was reading through my novel the other day and made a startling realization. All my main male characters, the three ‘love interests’ that my heroine must choose from, have wavy dark hair…

Is this a problem, I wonder?

Oops. They aren’t supposed to be triplets! But now I worry they will appear so to the reader. So I went back and made one blond. (Such is the god-like power of  writing).

Should I make another one a red-head?!

I will admit that I struggle with description. I don’t like a lot of it when I’m a reader of books and I’ve been pretty sparse with it as a writer of one. The three men in my novel have quite distinct personalities, so I’m hoping that will separate them in the minds of my readers.

But I do wonder if I might need to give a bit more thought to how they look…

Nose shape (probably ‘aquiline’). Jaw shape (probably ‘square’). Height (probably ‘tall’). Weight (probably ‘middling but not overly muscular’).

Ack! There’s a ‘hero’ mold I can’t seem to break out of…!

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