By Stu Leventhal
If you were describing a female friend to your co-worker whom you wanted to set up on a blind date with this woman, you would go all out to convince your co-worker she was his perfect match. The man would be on his guard because people are suspicious of blind dates and do not usually trust meddling match makers so it would not be easy. Your co-worker would want to know everything about the woman not just her looks! This is how your readers feel when you introduce a new character to a story.
Readers are skeptics just like people are when they are introduced to a new person. Your readers are going to be frustrated and anxious until you tell them enough for them to feel comfortable with the new addition to the cast.
People are multidimensional, multifaceted and multi-unpredictable! You have to showcase all of these to have well-rounded characters.
Characterization is usually a big part of any creative writing project because people like to read about other people. We want to know what others do and think. We like authors who can inform us what it is like to walk in their characters shoes!
Characters often reflect their author’s images. It can be said that a creative author is trying on different personas as he or she writes about different characters, sort of experimenting to see how he sees himself playing those roles. Writing, after all, is a self-discovery activity first and second a journey of awareness and enlightenment we can share with others.
Can you write a character study about yourself? If you cannot describe yourself, the person you know the most about; how can you expect to be able to inform readers about your characters? Think about how you would describe yourself to your readers. How would your best friend describe you? How would a boss, teacher or coach describe you? Think about what a former lover or present lover would say when telling their best friend or family member about you. How would a long time roommate or family member describe you?
Each of the above descriptions would be different because they come from a different point of view and each is only privy to specific info based on their relationship with you. Also, depending on who each of the above people were talking to about you and what the nature of the conversation was would determine how they described you. People have motives and often those motives steer their descriptions of other people more than the truth does!
As a creative writer you have to know all those above perspectives for every character you create. Plus you must know what each character thinks about themselves too! What are a characters defining qualities? What would they like their defining qualities to be?
If you were to tell readers about your best quality and your worst quality, would others who know you intimately agree with your assessment? What really makes you different from everyone else? What are you working towards changing about you?
Do you really like yourself? If not, can you like the characters you write about... really like them!
Most of us are very tough on ourselves! We scrutinize ourselves? We are masochistic in grading ourselves! Can you be as tough on your characters? And, not just on the so called villains! Good writers have to find a way to show tough love for their heroes too! the villains need your compassion. If your villains do not get understanding and sympathy from you their author, who will they get any from?
*Today’s creative writing assignment is to describe you, through the eyes of three different people. Make one view point be from a complete stranger who sat across from you on a train ride the other two views points should be from people who know you more personally.
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*As always feel free to add to the discussions in our comment section.