Monthly Archives: October 2021

Can You Imagine the Character You Read About?

Woman, Butterflies, Fashion, People, Minimalism, Art

Can you imagine the character you read about?

More importantly, is the character relatable?

How do we take abstract ideas and develop them into three-dimensional characters who love, laugh, hurt? Who live a life we can understand.

Here is what I’ve found through reading, writing, studying:

  • Give them a background. Why is the character a horrible person? Was he in an abusive household?
  • Create nervous tics or habits. Everyone has habits they don’t realize they’re doing — play with their hair (nervousness or self-centered), roll their eyes (lack of patience).
  • No character is absolutely perfect. Is a perfect person relatable or lovable? No, because we know that’s a front. They’re keeping something from us. We want to see what that is.
  • Character need realistic reasons for doing what they’re doing. If a character is evil, there should be a reason or it’s hard to follow, to believe.
  • Characters with unique features are interesting. They stand out if they have, say, buck teeth or big glasses that cover half their face, or two different color eyes, or a buzz cut so short the hair seems penciled to their head.
  • No stereotypes. Are all women maternal and spend their time in the kitchen cooking? Heck no. Are all men against asking for directions? No. I’ve seen it happen. It’s formulaic, and as such less interesting.

A good character not only carries a story, but can become the story.

I watched Homeland for one reason — the main character. Good show, but not all episodes carried their weight. Carrie, however, was worth every moment I took away from my own life to watch hers. It’s hard to encounter such a dynamic, vulnerable yet strong character in television. Same with the book series Bosch. Harry carried the story.

When reading, do you imagine the character in detail? Do you get attached to their story?

I do. Same when writing.

Paige, from my short-story collection Start Again (Survivor), is a woman who is only happy when she’s unhappy. Morose, distant, yet a tender soul who works long hours, donates to charity, and eschews anything social, Paige finds herself with one friend when life strikes. Loosely based on a real life person, Paige took on a life and look of her own as I wrote her. Her features developed in my mind’s eye little by little until a full-fledged person emerged.

Here is sort of how I see her — picture below. She is a mixture of morose, curious, vibrating with energy, distant yet helper. An enigma to many. An open book to few. You’d want Paige as a friend, but only after being around her a while.

Girl, Woman, Head, Face, Portrait

How do you imagine the characters you read about? Do you form a clear picture based on description, actions, both?

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Podcasts, my new love

Moon, Full Moon, Moonlight, Super Moon

I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes.

How long have podcasts been around?

No, please don’t answer. It’s embarrassing. They’ve been around too long.

You constantly hear of celebrities coming up with podcasts. By the way, the definition straight from the dictionary: podcast = a digital audio file available on the internet for downloading to a device, typically available as a series or new installments.

So, driving to work again, I decided listening to a podcast would be a good way to kill time.

And I found Serial, by Sarah Koenig.

Just like that, the drive became too short. Serial is very well done. Of course, the first season is sad. It’s about a murder. About finding out if the man in jail for it is really the guy. What Sarah Koening does well is remaining impartial and inviting the listener to solve the mystery with her.

I came away not sure. I want to like the young man behind bars – his vibe of innocence – but I’m not sure. The emotion is there. The character development is top notch. Descriptions done well enough to put the listener right there in the heart of it all. Detailed oriented, but not over the top.

The series is a master class on good production, and in general, good storytelling.

As a writer, I aspire to being able to do that: stay out of the story while telling it. Take the reader to the desired effect, without giving the impression of directing. All in all, we aspire to telling good stories, allowing the reader to draw a conclusion based on what and how we write and not telling the reader what and how to think. Not to the point it’s an opinion piece.

Though, eh?

I like Serial. Not always easy to listen to, but very realistic in my view.

The installments are good storytelling. And I am finally getting with the times and listening to podcasts. I’m sure by now there’s something newer and fancier than a mere podcast available, but I’ll be the last to get with it. Again.

What do you listen to on long drives, or when you just want to listen?

I send out tidbits from time to time. No obligations. No spam. See below.

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Image: pixabay