Thursday, March 16, 2006

Characterization

PM asked yesterday what makes a good hero. This ties in beautifully with what I've been contemplating lately :-) I'm in the process of my first round edits for the book I'm working on (first round because I write very rough drafts and end up with several edits - although each pass goes fairly quickly).

Anyway, the edit stage of any book is when I finally let out the other people that have been trying to push their way into the forefront of my brain for attention. Several of them leak out - which is why I'm currently plotting two spin-off books from the one I'm working on now for 3 of the secondary characters - but generally I can hold them at bay (cause if I didn't I'd never be able to concentrate on the current story). My process always begins with the characters so whenever I start a new story I begin with a character sketch. Now, I don't mean a detailed questionnaire or anything, the playfriends with attest to the fact that I abhor conventional methods for anything :-). I generally just sit down with my pen and paper, or in front of the computer, or with my alphasmart and start writing/brainstorming ideas for this character. In most cases, there are quite of few things that the person is certain of :-) and a few here and there where I fill in the details myself.

This brings me to a question though....Characterization. What makes a character likeable? And how do you take an idea from your imagination (sssshhh, don't tell them I said that) and breath life into them? What makes these people REAL? 3 Dimensional?

What makes a character pop off the page for you? Make you truly care about them and the struggles they face?

Instigator - who is shamelessly picking brains to make sure that her characters are perfectly real :-)

5 comments:

Problem Child said...

The most important thing as far as I'm concerned is that they act in believable ways. For example--your average, modern 25 year old knows how sex works--even if she hasn't done it before. When I read contemps where the heorine doesn't know the first thing about sex, I want to throw it accross the room. AND, if she is still a virgin at 25, she has a reason. I have a hard time believing she'll just sleep with someone willy-nilly.

It's like trying to base a story on an adult who still believes in Santa Claus.

I often see characters "forced" by the author to do something because it serves the plot. If it doesn't make since for that character to do so, then I'm out of the book--never to return.


PC

Rhonda said...

I think that in order to make a character believable, you've got to give them identifying flaws which the reader can relate to. This is particularly true with a heroine. (Or at least IMO it is. :-)

Like PC, I can't stand to read a book where the characters do things simply to serve the plot--every action has to be based in the core root of the character in order for the hero or heroine--whichever the case may be--to be believable.

Give me a heroine who has am imperfection--if she's perfect, what's she got to gain? What's the point of rooting for her?

As for the hero, he's got to have a sense of humor, has to be a bit of a badass, possess honor and courage, and above all, he's got to totally fall for the heroine. *She* is the only person for him.

Just my long-winded .02. :-)

Anonymous said...

Just like us, characters have to have quirks in their personalities that make them real. I love reading about heroines who are slightly clumsy. I can relate to that because not only is that funny (another interesting characteristic) but if the heroine can make fun of herself in the process, it makes her believable.

Strong heroines who rise above their predicaments inspire us to do the same. Strong heroes, even those with attitudes, make us want to find the flaw that enables us to love them.

Just stuff off the top of my head.
Kathy

Angel said...

I've nothing to add, because my brain is seriously tired tonight (long week). But since characterization remains a bit of a mystery to me, I'm soaking this all in. I'm definitely a plotter, and have only learned how to listen to my characters during my last book. Talk about a revelation!

Angel

Playground Monitor said...

There's not a lot I can add that the others haven't said already. So I'll just add a hearty "Ditto."