For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
    So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, what is unseen is eternal.
    ~2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Monday, August 25, 2014

How to Write Better Characterization?

I love shopping. No, that's not true. I love finding bargains.

About six years ago I bought College Boy a new shirt for Easter. My mother-in-law had given me the money and insisted I get him "something nice from Dillard's." So I did. His response? 

"I can't wear a shirt that cost $40! I'll have to spend all my time telling my friends, 'Don't touch The Shirt.'"

It's not as if he had never worn a shirt that cost $40 before. He had. He'd just never seen the price tag. Needless to say, I trudged him to the mall. While we were returning his too-expensive-for-him-to-wear shirt, I noticed Dillard's was having an Take an additional 50% off anything already 70% off already. How had I missed that sign earlier in the day? I hadn't planned on buying a new outfit for Easter for me, but who can resist a sale? In the end, I bought an $89 skirt for $11.75 and a $68 sweater for $5.00.

Sometimes we're too focused on one thing in our writing that we don't keep one part of our brain on the lookout for a new insight into a major, or minor, character.

While working on Unsold Manuscript, I realized my heroine's aunt was a flat character. The only external detail about her was she wore a gray dress. (Her dialogue, though, does show her personality and emotion.) Why wear gray? Oh, she's a widow. Well, duh. But let's take it a step further, why is it so important to her to wear grey?

Her answer? To bring out the gray in her chestnut hair. Now that's an odd reason. What woman in her right mind would intentionally want to draw attention to the few strands of gray in her hair? At 40, she, conceiveably, marry again and have a child or two. So I decided to chase the rabbit a bit.

What if she had an admirer. What if he weekly sent her a letter expressing his love and proposing marriage. How would Aunt respond? Read the letter then discard it. Now if she hadn't felt at least something for the man, she wouldn't read the letters. Yet, she did read them and never responded. Still the man continued to pursue.

As you add layers of characterization and introspection to a story, look for hidden treasures. It always pays to keep an eye out for something different, new, fresh, and . . . well, cheap.

What obscure fact have you ever written (or read) and it added a surprising oomph to a character?

1 comment:

  1. That's a great lesson. I'll apply it to my writing.