Saturday, May 30, 2009

Characterization . . . should be this real!

As writers, all our characters should be this alive:


She's addicting, isn't she?

We watched this video over and over in my office. Whether the viewers had kids or not, found her annoying or adorable, or even liked chatter or not; everyone was mesmerized.

When characters hit the page, writers often flatten them out -- cardboard imitations.

Watch the video again. Note each movement. Notice how she attempts to engage those around her. Take in the reaction of her father, and the voice in the background that I assume is mom.

This little girl's chatter should be burned into your mind. This is true 3-D, and as authors, each writer has the job of bring characters to life. Great published authors employ this level of development in each book. It's what keeps readers continually coming back for more.

Watch again. What mannerisms can you draw from her behavior? Her father's?

Ever been to the mall? For more than shopping? Take a seat in the food court and observe human behavior. See if you can determine who is happy, sad, angry, rushed? How did you know? What were the clues? Facial expressions? Dragging their child through the mall at break-neck speed? Set of the shoulders, mouth, jawline? Listen for voice inflections? Pick a group of teenagers, then an older married couple, or a young couple with little ones in tow. What is differences in conversation? Voice inflection? Happiness level?

These are all attributes that writers can bring to the table when serving up the perfect character.

Don't short-change the reader's hunger for meaty characters.

Remember the chatter and let your characters come to 3-D life.

Thanks for dropping by my back porch.
Until then.
~Sandra

2 comments:

Sue L said...

Excellent advice. I love to people watch and will sometimes even snap photos of the crowd to get a more interesting individual that I want to reference later. - I'm not sure that's the best way to do it, but so far, I haven't been punched in the nose! :)

Marilyn Brant said...

She really IS compelling! I kept getting drawn into watching the way the father was reacting toward her, too--his amusement and speechlessness :). Thanks for sharing the clip and your spot-on thoughts about characterization.

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