Literary Liaisons

A blog about writing and all things story…

Joe & I – Buckingham Palace

While in London with my husband Joe, I read a delicious novel by local author Debra Dean, titled The Madonnas Of Leningrad. Dean does a beautiful job in her book of mining the emotional depths of her characters. I fell in love with them and their story.
Often in my reading what irks me most is the lack of depth to a character. Internal angst, emotion and motivation are critical character traits. These are revealed through the character’s reactions to events and other characters, their actions in the story, and their biases or opinions. We all know this stuff, but it’s easy to forget when we have our characters so firmly identified in our minds.
What does your character desire? (to be loved, feared, or just to have a damned bowl of hot spaghetti and be left alone. Make it clear.)
Why does she/he want it? (bad childhood, bullied in school or just climbed Mt Everest and dreamed of a huge bowl of hot spaghetti and a loaf of garlic bread for twenty, arctic-cold, grueling, food-rationed days – get out of this person’s way.)
What does she/he hate/fear/love? Pretty self explanatory.Why? In my novel, Warriors, we learn why my antagonist hates preachers and loves children – though in a dark and sinister way.

Without being obvious, and whenever realistically possible, Gloria Kempton and Donald Maass say to link an internal trait with an external marker: a shy character (internal trait) may go red in the face (external marker); when a stranger draws near. A character who is claustrophobic (internal trait) may avoid small enclosed spaces like a cave, an elevator, a cellar, etc., this is their external marker – how they show their fear.
Until we can flush at least a wee bit of this stuff out on the page, our characters remain flat.
These are just my thoughts, put to the page. Think about it, toss it, or at least watch for these things in my writing and call me out when I have not done this. Keep stringing words together… Mindy



This entry was posted on September 6, 2010 by in Character traits -London.
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