Monday, November 18, 2013
Recap! Let's Make a Character!
So this week for our lesson I had some difficulty coming up with other dimensions of character development. There's certainly a multitude of ways to approach this topic, so I wanted to recap then on what we've learned, rather than explore unfamiliar territory. What we shall do today is create a character using the three dimensions of character development that I have offered thus far.
Coming up with names for characters I haven't touched on yet. It's really up to you how much you want to emphasize this stage of characterization. It's important to decide on a name before hand however, only because names are foundational to the character; they establish the basis of a character's personality. In the past it was common for Victorian age literature to create characters that had names that were symbolic to their function in the narrative. You can still do this today, but, because you are not Virginia Wolf or Thomas Hardy, I would sweat the details. Only famous people can do it and pull it off without sounding really cheesy.
So the name of our character will be Reinaldo (and yes, I am going to pull a character out of my ass on the fly. Prepare yourself.)
Reinaldo needs to be distinguished in order to be a leading protagonist. The genre of literature we are operating in will determine what characteristics Reinaldo will possess as they pertain to the general narrative progression of the story. For argument's sake, I will select the Age of enlightenment.
And now for the silhouette...
Reinaldo is a Spaniard, but his family hails from a bordering region that aligns itself with France. His French blood distinguishes himself from his Spanish countrymen, but he is still a man who loves his country. What this backstory tells me is that Reinaldo is upright, proud, but may possess at times too much pride, bordering on hubris. His occupation is that of a royal printer. He is well fed, in shape, his chest is out as he walks and his hands are sensibly dirtied, being the kind of man who likes to be intimately involved in his work. Therefore, his beard will be trimmed but always subtly haggard. It covers his jaw, offsetting his undefined cheekbones. He is still handsome in the classical sense, wearing a cravat over a well buttoned Italian vest. His sleeved are rolled up exposing his strong arms, which are covered in black hair, though not overly hairy. His skin is olive, being a man of his country, and it pairs well with his richly adorned and finely dyed clothing (mauve with yellow accents and polished black leather shoes). His hair is scraggily being a man of work and not pleasure, but the back is neatly tied nonetheless. His nose is slightly large, making his words nasal, and appropriate for his modest French. Using this rough outline we now have a characteristic description of our protagonist. It relies on stylized stereotypes of the era, but Reinaldo himself will be just distinguished enough to stand out as unique in this period. He will be a byronic protagonist, a man seeking success in a rapidly changing world. His decision making will not ruin him but bring him down low, and his new state will return him to his family, but at the cost of his social standing and personal fortune. Using this, now, we can move on to the description style.
Tell Me, or Show Me.
For the sake of simplicity I will describe Reinaldo using the "Show Me" style. So here below is a sample description from the narrative that would be an introductory description of Reinaldo as we first meet him in his printing room:
"In the early afternoon, Reinaldo brooded over the typeset asked by her majesty's interpreter. Scratching his rough chin with the back of his knuckles, he approached the press. Xavier, his assistant stood behind him, a small brown man from Naples. Together they watched the apprentice smear the tar like ink across the metal grid with a hefty brush. Reinaldo shook his head, grabbing the brush impetuously and scolded the boy for using too much. Lightly he set the brush down and smeared the excess ink from the header with his hands and backed away, nodding with approvals The sun lit up the room now, as he stood shielding his dark, eyes from the light. His other hand was covered in the pasty ink, which hung at his side. The day had proved productive, the cover page for the royal address nearly complete. Satisfied, he raised his hands proudly, and backed away from the press. In the corner his coat hung on a wooded peg, which he retrieved after he washed the remaining ink from his hands. His boots, unsoiled, would make Sophia pleased with him, who spoke her mind often about him needlessly ruining his clothes. Behind him Xavier returned to the press beside the boy, and Reinaldo left to go for a walk to think."
Reinaldo's attitude should be emphasized by his actions. Notice how I made him a bit self absorbed and a perfectionist in the way he takes the brush from his apprentice and how he wipes away the excess ink on the press without any concern to his expensive clothing. When expressing attitude in characters and developing their personality, placing them in proximity with other minor characters helps further define them as well. So we get to understand Reinaldo by watching him work around Xavier, his assistant, and also through his interaction with the young apprentice. His wife, briefly mentioned does not supply us with enough information to know if Reinaldo is kind or indifferent towards his wife's opinions, but the added detail shows that he is aware of how people perceive him. The final detail, in which Reinaldo turns around and observes his fine work, shows the pride he takes in his work.
These are the details that give our characters a soul and personality.
So, with this information, create a character sometime this week. Experiment and have fun with your work! Next week I will continue the series once more. Until then, keep writing!