Friday, 3 June 2016

Revealing a character - part 2

Hi there,
last week I started explaining some of the things you can do in your writing that allow characters to reveal themselves.

We looked at:
  • Physical description
  • What characters think
  • What other characters say about them
  • What they say about themselves.
Now let's look at a few other things you can do that enable characters to show their personalities to readers.

  • How characters say things - A lot can be said by implication. This exerpt is from The summons, the first of the Counterpoint stories. Patrick was found nursing a hangover and in bed with a bar-wench. This interaction between him and his sister, shows that Maeve is assertive and aggressive in her own way, and while young, is under no illusions where her brother Patrick is concerned. 
"Oh, do be quiet!" Maeve dismissed the wench with a toss of her head. "Seriously, Pat, you never cease to surprise me. The inn-keep's daughter? Got everything?"
I nodded again, my head foggy with pain.
"Come on, then," she said brightly and strode to the door, my clothes over her arm.

  • The environment they make for themselves - Patrick's bedroom at his estate in Waterville is described in Torn. You can make up your own mind what you think Patrick is like from this excerpt.
Books were piled on the writing desk and a shirt was flung over the back of a chair. The room, though clean, was a study of clutter and disarray, yet to my surprise, on the window-ledge in a little porcelain pot, was a lush geranium complete with vivid, red flowers.

  • A character's reaction to himself - Throughout the Counterpoint series, we see Patrick undergo a number of personal changes; some he is aware of, while others surprise him. This was taken from The awakening.
If not for the fact that I was feeling so damned cheerful, I'd be steeped in misery. Misery because I now realised I was in love - a state of affairs that displeased me immensely because I'd always thought being in love made one vulnerable, which is a weakness - an moreover, the object of my affection was both unattainable and unfitting. 

Further, I'd descended to the point where I was in danger of acting on impulses that were stictly off-limits.

Then there's this, also from Counterpoint - one of the most recent stories and my personal favourite called, Duty, honour, gallantry. Patrick is gravely ill and considers his possible death:

If I had the strength to snort, I would do so now at my own perversion, for I have always disdained those who profess to regret. Yet I find, as I lay here, wracked with pain and ravaged by the poisons of a festering wound, that I have such regret that my heart aches. 

  • A character's reaction to others - almost as much as what they say, we learn about characters by what they do and how they react to others. In this excerpt from Inviolate, Alex is being physically threatened. Even though she's afraid, she stands up to her aggressor. We learn from this that she is both brave and proud. 
In two strides he had shoved me hard against the wall and I glared at him defiantly. Any violence he could do now would be nothing compared with debasing myself before all those people, and though my knees trembled, I refused to look away.

In your writing, I think when describing something, you should always use your five senses:
  1. Touch
  2. Taste
  3. Hearing 
  4. Sight
  5. Smell
Some might say there's a sixth sense too, so why not add that as well. People can sense things and you can show this in the raising of hairs on your character's neck or a tightening in the stomach, chest, things like that ... think about the physical signals your body gives you and apply them to your characters. 

Well, that's about all for this topic. I hope it's been helpful. 

Meanwhile, here I am still in Rome while Stu's back home in Melbourne. Took myself out for lunch yesterday as a bit of a treat.

Lunch for one. You're never alone when you have a good book!

 Until next week pick up one of your favourite books, open a page at random and read a few paragraphs. What have you learned about the character from what you just read? Did the writer employ any of the techniques that I like to use? Let me know what you think.

      

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