Monday, May 4, 2009

Character development #1

Look back over the last few posts and you'll get a feel for some of the characters I write. Character development is something that happens gradually as the story progresses. Little snippets of their personalities come to light as they interact, like Mr. Goldstein's walk on the beach or little Shasta stopping dead in her tracks to scold Kathryn. As a counterbalance to Mr. Goldstein is Grandfather McKenzie, the cold, calculating business man.

Not withstanding, you've come to know a bit about me as a (real life) character from Jerry Simmon's comment and my own dialogue with you. Probably the most telling thing you learned is my opinion of the underdog and the bully. I hope so, anyway.

One significant way writers make their characters come to life is to boldly point out (exaggerate) personality traits. The way to do that is to pay attention to real people and see what stands out about them, the things that make them interesting.

I went to the market last Thursday night. There were only a handful of shoppers in the store, but we kept running into each other as if drawn together by a geomagnetic force.

There was another woman about my age who was dutiful to her list -- just like me. There were two teen girls. And there were two men, older than me, who seemed new to the food shopping game. We had crossed paths several time. They were a bit loud, in an attention seeking way. But what really got my attention was when they were in the salad dressing section, selecting dressings by the shape of the bottle. The dark hair one said to look for a designer looking bottle.

I have no idea what their real story is, but I'd write them as two guys back in the dating game after years of sofa-loafing. It would be easy to write a comical piece about their efforts to attract the interest of their dates with the fabulous meal they planned. Of course, the meal doesn't go according to plan and they are not nearly as 'desirable' as they think they are.

That's how people watching turns into characters. Take an unsuspecting person and attribute a storyline to them. Got it?

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