Friday, September 24, 2010
Weaving Compelling Characters
"He does not write- he breathes life off the page" -Edna O'Brien on Chekhov
Characters are what make a story. You can have the most exciting plot with twists and turns but if the characters in your world don't feel authentic, the story will fall flat. The goal in every story is to "suspend disbelief". The best way to do this is to make sure your characters are fully developed.
1) Warp- Great characters have back stories that make them who they are. The warp of any weaving is the structure that holds the tapestry together. Our characters don't just pop out of nowhere. They had full lives before entering the story we are telling. Spending time with your characters and creating a history that leads to who they are today will hold your character together as they face your unfolding plot.
2) Texture- Believable characters have real emotion. The most interesting tapestries have different textures to add depth. Telling your readers that your character is sad is flat and uninteresting. However, if your character is staring at the same stain on the wall, arms wrapped around her shoulders rocking back forth we see and feel that sadness. Look for new and interesting ways to convey emotion.
3) Color- Exceptional characters want something. The use of color creates the unique design of each tapestry. Our characters, from the protagonist to the ancillary characters all have wants and desires that color all their actions. These are what drive the decisions that each character makes. Spend time understanding these motivators.
4) Pattern- Memorable characters have patterns of behavior. Most patterns in a tapestry repeat themselves over and over again. Human beings have a tendency to develop routines, ways for doing things based on who they are. These can be good or bad habits. They can even change as the character grows but these are small things that make each character unique. Flipping his hair to the right, moving her hands whenever she gets excited, are all things that anchor the character in reality and keep your character interesting.
These are important parts of weaving a character. It is sometimes tempting to skip or skimp on one or more or the parts and just get on with the story. However, you will find that creating full and compelling characters requires close attention to all of these details. (Tapestry above by Sylvia Heyden)
What processes do you use to get at these important parts of a compelling character?