Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Revealing Characters (Characterization VI)

I've come to the final post on characterization. These techniques may be numbered 13 through 16 on my list, however they are by no means less important that those preceding. In fact, they may be the most often used and important of the techniques. They are so intertwined that it's almost impossible to separate them as individual components. They are:

13. Reveal Character By Exposition. The most direct form of revelation, novelists usually resort to it when only exposition will work. It is usually done when two characters discuss another who is not present during the conversation.

14. Revealing Character By Description. This method brings the character to life for the reader. The reader gets a sense of who the character is by learning about the character's appearance, physical characteristics, and dress.

15. Revealing Character Through Narration. This method is employed when the reader learns about a character's traits, personality, and actions through the narrator rather than actions or other characters.

16. Revealing Character Through Action. It is my belief that this is the best way to reveal who your character is. A novel tends to use this method rather than narration to show the reader the details of a character.

Exposition, description, narration, and action rarely occur as isolated techniques, they are best when intermixed with each other. Writers often intermix action with dialogue to avoid what I call "talking head" syndrome where the reader is subjected to line after line of dialogue with no action to break it up. When people communicate there is a tremendous amount of action taking place. What is the speaker doing while talking? Are his/her hands stationary? What are his or her eyes and torso doing? Is he/she sitting, pacing, doing both? On the other hand, what the listener is doing can reveal a lot about how he/she is receiving the message the speaker is sending.

As a summary, the writer should consider one key element: What interests people most? Answer: Human behavior. If a character is to come to life for a reader, he/she must be Human. They must have the general, physical, emotional and emotional traits of a person. These traits must be probed and developed. The deeper you probe the more 3-dimensional your characters will be.

Mystery Man

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