Monday, November 11, 2013

Character Development: Defining Attitudes

So we've been talking about character descriptions these past few weeks. The first lesson was on silhouettes, building a character with key distinguishing characteristics that make them unique and iconic. The second lesson (which was broken up into two parts) focused on the initial description of the character, specifically concerning what they look like and how their behavior factors into their appearance.

Today is different. Developing a character goes only so far if the visual aspect is the focus. I just saw Thor 2: The Dark World for instance the other day and there was a character just like that. It was a bruiser that was just a bruiser and that was it. Sure he looked cool, but was completely interchangeable with any other character.

Attitudes, that is where I'm going with this. The demeanor of a character is important to focus on, and the best way to develop a good demeanor for a character is to imagine two people talking to one another. Which one talks? Which one listens? Which one gesticulates? And so on... That's just the basics though. Which one has a strong sense of justice? Which one is empathetic? Which one is conservative? Which one is the libertine? Once you've decided that, how does one feel about the other?  Imagine an interplay between your characters and slowly their personalities will begin to gestate.

Another thing to consider is the level of detail that is possible in a personality. It's easy to fabricate a team dynamic between two people, bit what about six? Pick your battles, because at a certain point you just can't create bold and realistic character when a handful of others have to share the page.

From here I usually make sure the attitude of the character matches the personality. You can certainly be creative and play with convention a bit. Can a fat character be giddy and enthusiastic? Certainly! But to what degree? How giddy? How will you retain their visual appearance without conflicting with a incongruent personality? Think about that for a moment.

Lastly with attitudes, I caution you all to take special care for your character development at this stage. The worst thing you can do is lean on character stereotypes or shell characters (the jolly Scotsman or a brooding Frenchman). It makes your book one dimensional and certainly less creative.

And have fun with this too! Let me know what you come up with in your brainstorming. I'd be curious to see what you can all create!



SW

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