By Stu Leventhal
Great characterization authors are experts at making their
readers believe their characters actions are not being manipulated or contrived by them, the author, to enhance their story. Even if the story and characters are completely fabricated and totally fictional the reader has to feel the characters would not speak or act in any other way than is being presented.
We all know that real people are fickle but fickleness has to be
shown to the readers honestly in writing if an author plans to use it to further the plot. Once a reader starts questioning his author’s motives and the seeds of doubt take root, all is lost.
Great characterization is interwoven with the other literary
story elements. A person acts and reacts based on the environment they were raised in and the circumstances in which they live at present. Next, the writer considers the character’s constitution and thus their words and deeds mesh with their backgrounds and beliefs. The reader has no reason to wonder. The scenes could pan out no other way for these
The setting effects the characters’ actions and these actions
drive the plot. Setting, plot and character development all combine to create the theme. The theme then has to mold the plot and characters’ actions since their duty is to support or prove the author’s theme.
Often, new authors and amateur scribes make the mistake of
thinking their stories will lack excitement and drama if they do not portray fantastically adventurous flamboyant characters. But, the opposite is true! The drama is more powerfully felt by the reader if the character is less able to cope with it. A daredevil does not evoke the same sympathy when he gets himself into a fix as a wall flower does.
Another fallacy is that it will be difficult to keep the plot
interesting and moving if you do not dream up fantastic situations, confront your characters with insurmountable obstacles and constantly pit them against the Devil incarnated and keep making sure any chance of their happiness is
always dashed. No life is all sun shine or all bleak there has to be a believable balance.
It is easier to write the next scenes of one's story once the author has decided on a specific setting, his cast of players are created and a theme has been decided on. The plot will flow from scene to scene naturally as long as the writer stays
true to the setting and the character traits of the main players.
Think of your best friend or a close family member. Aren’t you able to predict how they are going to react to a given situation or to new news? You should already know how your characters are going to act in most situations even if those situations
never occur during the tale you are weaving.
Great characterization has nothing to do with attempting to
create the most interesting people who have ever been imagined. Yes, your characters need to be well thought out and fully developed. People are complex and their lives are full of contradictions. We all have quirks, stubbornness and tenacity moments. Our actions are irrational and self-destructive at times. All of life’s nuances must be taken into account when you build your characters. But, not every aspect of your characters strengths and flaws can or will be presented directly to your reader. Your readers have to be given some credit for common sense and understanding, after all a lot of the fun of reading comes from imagining oneself in the shoes of the characters.
The wise author does not develop characters. He creates lives. A character is a one, two or three dimensional representative of a being set in time. A life is constantly changing and thus its dimensions are never quite fixed.
Great characterization has most to do with presenting your characters, simply, understandably and most of all recognizably to all of us. That is why great characters can stand the test of time. Great recognizable characters are what give great literature their value allowing their tales to be told, enjoyed and
cherished, not just tolerated, from generation to generation.