Monday, March 22, 2010

Revealing Character

Last week in my online class, one of the other students made this observation about her challenge in developing one of the characters in her book.

The pieces of him I reveal have to add up to an entire person.

Isn't that brilliant? It's what each of us needs to do as we build our story. We have to show the good and the bad, the hero and the coward, the quirks and the foibles that make us human, and in the end reveal a complete person.

I should note that the character she was talking about is NOT the main character. And yet to build a believable story, she knows this person needs to be fully formed. It's an important thing to keep in mind as we flesh out the people around our main characters. And it's my challenge to you this week.

Are all your pieces adding up?

24 comments:

Karen Akins said...

What a great observation. And right now, I would have to say that I have many characters where this isn't true.

Ahh, the wonderful world of revision.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Wow that's so true. I think I'm doing that more with my characteriziations now than I did before. But that's because I've found a better technique for getting to know them that just filling in a questionnaire.

PS. I have an award for you on my blog. :)

Bish Denham said...

I like that observation and I'd like to think all my pieces are adding up, because even a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle looks wrong with one or two pieces missing.

beckylevine said...

I definitely have some work to do on this--especially with a couple of subcharacters! I know them in my head, but they're not yet showing up on the page. :)

Laura Pauling said...

I'm trying really hard. I'm plotting/outlining right and trying to create the characters so the pieces fit!

Hardygirl said...

Yeah. I like this. Especially since she was talking about a character who's not the protagonist. It's so easy to leave your other characters a little flat.

sf

Susan R. Mills said...

I love that. I certainly hope that with the amount of time I'm spending on my revisions that the pieces are adding up.

TerryLynnJohnson said...

this is great.

Tess said...

Like Stina, I am improving w/ this concept over time (I hope! I hope!)

Candyland said...

LOVE the way this was said!

Solvang Sherrie said...

Karen: Yeah, I told her I was going to print that out and hang it near my computer because it's just perfect!

Stina: Are you talking about the snowflake technique? I keep hearing about that.

Bish: The missing piece always jumps out at you, doesn't it? (Unless it's your own writing!)

Becky: For me it comes in editing. I miss a lot of details on my first drafts.

Laura: Keep at it!

SF: It's especially important with those secondary characters. It helps make the story so much more real.

Susan: I hear you. I'm in those revision trenches with one of my stories, too.

Terry: Thanks!

Tess: I hope I am too!

Candyland: Yeah, I thought she was pretty brilliant to state it that way :)

Anna said...

This makes me think of a puzzle coming together, which is a great image for creating a character! Getting all the pieces to add up is such a daunting task sometimes. I usually have to hang around with my characters for a long time before I feel like I've found all the pieces.

beth said...

Oooo...what a brilliant way of looking at it...

Dawn Simon said...

Excellent point. Now that I'm in the early chapters of my new WIP, I'm super focused on my characters. I mean, I know we always have to be, but I'm deciding what's right and wrong about the characters I sketched out, and how to reveal that since, in a first draft especially, it's so easy to over-write. Still, I'd rather over-write in my first draft and trim my words back, knowing just what she said: "The pieces in [them] I reveal have to add up to [entire people]." Awesome, Sherrie.

Lori W. said...

Love it. Of course, they add up in my head when I really know a character well, but getting that on the page is the tricky part.

Kelly said...

I'm doing an overhaul on my current ms, and fleshing out the characters is one of the things I'll be doing!

Indigo said...

That quote is going to stay with me. It's something I think we all definitely need to keep in mind creating our characters. (Hugs)Indigo

Vivian said...

I'm glad you're enjoying your class. I love your new look!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I love this! I'm nearly there, I think. :-)

Suzanne Casamento said...

Ooo. This is such a pertinent question! I met with my critique group last night and we discussed the same thing about one of my characters. Right now she's missing a piece or two. So I'm off to write..

Stephanie Faris said...

I hope so! I think it's all instinct...you just end up hoping you get it right.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Anna: I love the puzzle image. And I'm the same way -- the longer I'm with my characters the better I can write about them.

Beth: That's Kendell for you!

Dawn: Good that you're thinking about it from the beginning!

Lori: Ah, there's the challenge :)

Kelly: Have fun with it!

Indigo: I'm glad the quote will stay with you. It was memorable for me too.

Vivian: Thanks for noticing! I've been playing with new templates :)

Shannon: Keep at it!

Suzanne: Good luck finding the missing pieces :)

Stephanie: So much of it is instinct--and good critique partners!

Nishant said...

I like that observation
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art rein said...

Something akin to having a backstory for each character and remembering at those crucial points in the story.

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