How Well Do You Know Your Characters?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013
My swimmer will see the world
differently than your detective.
But how?
Last fall, I attended a revision workshop led by The Muffin’s very own Darcy Pattison. One of the things that Darcy emphasized was that we not only include plenty of details in our writing, but that we include the right details in our writing.

As I picked through my manuscript, something hit me. Yes, I had enough detail for the reader to experience the setting, but I hadn’t chosen the details that my character would most likely notice. I’m a very visual person with an acute sense of smell and am easily distracted by sound, thus I had sight, smell and sound covered.

What was missing were the kinesthetic details, details that focus on movement and how things feel to the touch. My character is a swimmer who is always being told by his teachers to be still. Clearly, I needed to work motion details into my story, because these are the kinds of things that my character would notice.

As I started working attention to motion into my story, I realized that my character may not see the world in black and white, but he would definitely see it in terms of constricting stillness vs glorious motion. That’s just how he’s wired.

Another character that I’ve been working with is a flashy girl who lives in a circus. She does everything with a certain flash and pizzazz so that is how she divides things – allowed to use her pizzazz vs not allowed to use her pizzazz.

A character who can speak to wolves notices more to do with scent and sound than do her fellow humans.

The character who is an incarnation of Persephone is still giving me fits. Obviously, she’s going to be tuned into plants and the natural cycle, but I’m not sure how it will color her perceptions of those around her.

Do you know your characters well enough to know how they see the world? What details would they notice that you would overlook? What is their good vs their bad? Remember, you are answering this for your character. If her answers too closely resemble your own, you might have a bit more work to do.


Read more of SueBE's writing at her blog.


Sioux Roslawski said...

SueBE--Thanks for this post. So many times, the little things have a huge impact. Going back over a short story, or--Yikes!--a manuscript is a great exercise.

Sometimes, if I need to add something physical, I will actually "role play" and act out the shift on the couch, the picking up of a heavy box--and try to bring it to life on paper.

Thanks for this post.

Margo Dill said...

I think this is something a lot of us do--we (as the narrator and creator) get in the way of our character. I say that to my students a lot: don't forget to filter your setting details and everything in the story world through your character's eyes--this is especially true for first person and third person limited. I love your examples, too!

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