Monthly Archives: September 2012

Creating a Character Step 3

Interaction

So far I’ve gone over image (Conquering the Five Senses) and personality (Forming Personality). The last step is interaction.

Interaction is composed of dialogue, body language and can also encompass a character’s thoughts. I find this part of  character development to be the most exciting because it is the story. After spending time thinking about a character’s physical traits and personality, I finally get to throw him/her into the mix and see what happens.

But to the basics, why is interaction important?

1) Depicts your character through dialogue, action and his/her thoughts

2) Leads/revolves around the climax or theme

As I said in an earlier post once you have a grasp of your character’s personality the exchange between other characters becomes easier because you have a generalized idea of how your character will react. You can work him/her into the plot and manipulate the plot or character how you see fit in order to cover your theme or climax.

A way to develop interaction is to keep your end goal in mind. What are the milestones of your story, and how can you get to them?

Example,  The Great Storms:

Milestone–Jeremiah takes Andrew to live in an underground shelter.

How I made it happen–Jeremiah gets a chance when Grandma leaves Andrew for a night to play bingo.

The resulting interaction between Grandma and another character convinces Grandma to leave Andrew with a babysitter. The exchange serves two purposes: a piece of Grandma’s personality is revealed, and she leaves the house.

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Creating a Character Step 2

Forming Personality

Personality, I think, forms after a period of time. Life experiences shape our attitudes, choices and our reactions to things. In fiction it is no different except a character’s personality doesn’t take a lifetime to form. This is where the character’s image comes into play.

Take Sandra from Conquering the Five Senses, her whole life is not before the reader to scrutinize unless the story starts at her birth but it doesn’t. She’s introduced as an older lady that has had many life experiences or at least that’s what we assume. Her thoughts and reactions have to come from somewhere, they have to have roots even if those roots are not apparent to the reader. They may not even be apparent to you, the writer. You may decide on a whim that Sandra despises cake. It’s a part of who she is because you said so–the end. The authoritative bluntness of such personality decisions is great and all, but doesn’t depict who Sandra is as a person. We’ll become familiar with her the more we are shown her actions, conversations, thoughts and feelings. So, how are we supposed to decide who Sandra is? You could just let it happen as you write, and eventually her personality will form or you can guide it.

By having a strong image of Sandra it’s easier to form her personality based on physical traits.

  • She wears a pink shawl
  • Has grey hair
  • Has a slight hunch

What can be deduced? She probably likes pink, doesn’t care so much for perfect posture or hair products. These are pretty basic and bland assumptions to make. They still don’t tell us much about her personality, and they won’t until we start adding to her history/life experiences.

Sandra grew up on a farm; not a large-scale operation but a work-you-to-the-bone family endeavor. Being the oldest of twelve, she was constantly helping her mother with household work and raising younger siblings. She felt she never had time for herself, and she probably didn’t with so many responsibilities. Her family was poor; she rarely got to pamper herself with modern beauty techniques or wear the latest fashion. At times she begrudged her position but developed a respect for the land that only comes from the long hours spent toiling on it.

Voilà! Sandra’s a humble woman with respectable charm. She wears pink to bring a little flair to herself.  She doesn’t dye her hair because of all the chemicals; she prefers natural beauty–an appreciation she developed while growing up. Her back is hunched because years of back-breaking labor does just that, breaks your back. With a general understanding of Sandra it’ll be easier to form her interactions with other characters and work the plot.

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The News and My Two Cents

Yes, this will be obnoxious and probably offensive.

Article One:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich sparks controversy: Can we really ban nut products from schools?

First off, are you serious? A simple PB&J sandwich banned? What is this world coming to–don’t answer that. If a child is allergic to nuts and they know it I guess it would be too simple to tell the child, “child don’t eat anything with nuts in it.” Is it really that hard? Are you telling me a five-year-old cannot comprehend such a simple request?

“Hey wanna trade lunches?”

“Sure, what do you have?”

“Peanut butter and jelly.”

“Oh, well, I’m allergic to peanuts, but I guess your sandwich would be alright.”

Get. Real.  Children without allergies should not be punished or subjected to restraints just because a few others have allergies. Likewise, children with allergies should not be penalized. They shouldn’t have to sit at separate tables and wonder why everyone is pointing at them. It’s not their fault that they are allergic. I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about children with severe allergies and their needs, but the responsibility has to fall on the right shoulders. Instead of asking schools to ban nut products from individual lunches (like they should have control over that anyway–don’t bring beer, it’s against school policy) perhaps ban it from lunch menus. Educating school staff on allergic reactions, how to treat them, etc, would be better than placing a ban on nut products. And there is of course always the very simple conversation:

“Johnny, dearest, darling, sweetie you’re allergic to peanuts. So, don’t eat them or anything containing them or you will get very sick, go to the hospital and probably die. It’s a statistic my love.”

Heartless? Maybe but it gets the message across doesn’t it? I recently had a friend go to the hospital for a severe allergic reaction. The cause still remains to be known, but we believe the culprit was spinach dip. A few hours after consuming the delectable appetizer, he found himself in a hospital unable to swallow and completely swollen. Think he’ll eat spinach dip again? More than likely not. Think that stops me? No.

Article Two:

Anti-American fury sweeps Middle East over film

I saw the trailer for this film a few days ago when I first read about the riots. The film was to say the least low quality, and had it not been for the riots I would have never known of its existence. My guess is that I’m not the only one lacking knowledge of said film. As I watched the very glitchy preview, I noticed the number of views were increasing! Oh my, what a surprise! Not. Think a simple boycott would have done the trick? You know, the kind they used for The Passion of Christ? Keep in mind there have been numerous films made about Christianity that could be considered offensive. South Park anyone? Although it isn’t a film there are many episodes that depict Jesus in what would be considered an offensive manner.

There are a ton of crude things I could say about all this, but I’ll keep my ignorant opinions to my ignorant self. It has gotten to the point that there is so much underlying tension between religious groups and their affiliated governments that a simple film has caused so much damage.

Now that I’ve been distracted–female killer whales experience menopause around the same time that female humans do. I completely forgot where I was going with my rant, and frankly oh well.

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