“If someone tells you writing is easy, he is either lying or I hate him.” —Farley Mowat

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Introducing Characters to the Reader

Introducing Characters to the Reader

a. telling it directly
Mr Maurice Smith was something of a snob.

b. allowing the character to tell it.
I am much more discerning than I used to be, Smith thought. Though I suppose I’ve become a bit of a snob in the process.

c. allowing some other character to express it.
“Don’t waste your time on him,” Jane Roberts said to her younger sister. “Maury Smith has no time for the likes of us any more.”

d. letting the character’s actions suggest it.
When Smith turned the corner, he discovered the source of the shouting. A demonstration. Labourers in hard hats wielded placards. One of the men pushed a pamphlet into Smith’s hands. He dropped it as he might have dropped a handful of steaming dung, and hurried away, glancing to either side in case someone he knew had seen.

Showing Emotions

1. Physical evidence: His heart raced. His palms were damp.
2. Revealing actions: Again he dropped the hat. Once he’d picked it up, he squeezed it and twisted it between his hands.
3. Facial expressions: He closed his eyes quickly, and turned away. His lips, you could see, were moving.
4. Stream of consciousness: I will not let them see, he thought. I will not give them the satisfaction. Let them think I am as courageous as they are.
5. Dialogue responses: “Me?” His voice cracked. “Me? But there must be…I can’t do…Excuse me, I’d better sit down.”
6. Projection onto setting.  The room, when he entered, was crammed with people buzzing with contentment at one another’s company. All turned, and leveled gazes at him that said: And what right do you have to come amongst us?
7. Metaphor: Why did he feel, whenever she turned that lion-sized smile on him, that he’d been mistaken for a Christian?
8. Allusion: For a moment he felt himself to be a trembling Faustus, about to cry out a pleas for a merciful postponement.
9. Rhythm: No, he would not. He would not. He would refuse. He would grit his teeth and smile till his lips bled. He would never, never, never let them see.
10 Sympathetic language: Perhaps the curtains flutter nervously, or the walls sweat condensation; perhaps the people bray when they laugh, growl when they suggest, bully when they persuade, or rear back, as though about to charge him.

Characterization through actions and movement. 

Even single words—verbs—can change the whole feel of a sentence:

Megan opened the door to the classroom and walked to the teacher's desk
Megan opened the door to the classroom and tiptoed to the teacher's desk. 
Megan opened the door to the classroom and crawled to the teacher's desk. 
Megan opened the door to the classroom and flew to the teacher's desk. 
Megan opened the door to the classroom and stumbled to the teacher's desk.
Megan yanked open the door to the classroom and scrambled to the teacher’s desk.

How does your character talk? What markers (emotional, regional, class, etc) in their speech note their character? How do they interact with others?

adapted from Barbara Haworth-Attard, & Jack Hodgins,


House Mother Normal by B.S. Johnson

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