In the article ‘Arms and Legs’ I talked about the importance of getting to know your characters, and there motivations within the plot of the novel. I mentioned the strength of House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III where the importance of impartiality when telling a story. In alternating he gives us descriptions of the two protagonists, as seen through the eyes of the opposite protagonist. This technique gave him the freedom to bring out negative and positive characteristics of the two main characters without having to take sides himself.
In my article on characterisation I was describing the process of getting inside the characters’ head and minds, and deciding what makes each of them tick. But, there is more to characterisation than that.
What about what a character does? How he does it? What are his interests? How does he dress? Does she wear makeup? Watch soap series?
The questions are endless. As are the answers. And for each question, the answer may be different for each character.
It all comes down to the old adage of ‘show don’t tell’, the application of which may be an important element in bringing a novel to life.
Do we want to have a high power character, successful or at least ambitious in business? How would such a character start his day. Probably by showering under his power shower, shaving with a high tech electric shaver and subsequently splashing a well known after shave on his face. He might have slightly long hair, which he ties into a designer ponytail. If he is balding he might just have a millimetre haircut.
He wears a suit or well tailored jeans, a shirt, not necessarily a tie, has an iphone, or at least a Nokia smartphone, and will drink a ready made high vitamin liquid breakfast.
On the way to work in his car he will most likely have his phone in a carset, and be on handsfree.
Incorporating any or all of these elements to describe the way your up and coming entrepreneur ‘does his thing’ and by including, if possible some suitable dialogue, will do a lot more for your writing than telling the reader that he is an ambitious young business man who hopes to make his first million before reaching the age of 25. Let the reader come to this conclusion by just walking your character through his usual routine.
Want the reader to know he is, or at least for now may appear to be, contented, then have him whistle a tune (for example).
In one of my later novels I wanted the reader to know of the ever growing confusion of my main character, an unhappily married woman, mother of two children. So I had her write lists every day, to remind herself to carry out certain tasks. The lists were stuck to her fridge door with magnets. So, this is a woman who is at home, a lot.
I could give endless examples. Try it out, and see how the writing comes to life.
Dialogue is a second tool that will bring a novel to life. Whether a character is intelligent, well-read, thinks things through, can be illustrated by the way he converses with others.
An untrustworthy character, may behave in one way when alone and in another way when with others.
The possibilities are endless.
Writing, reading, authentic living. It's all here at The Writing Process
Welcome to my blog. Let me start by telling you that I love writing. I love the sense of vitality it gives me. I love that it helps me to make sense of the world and to the people in it. I love that it helps me become wiser, more intuitive, empathic, and most of all autonomous.
All aspects - reading, writing and observing - are what make the process complete. The essence is storytelling, and learning about
life and yourself.