Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Study in Character

My 4 1/2 year old niece - we call her Little T - recently reminded me of an important writing lesson.

While at her pre-school, she wanted me to pick out which crayoned self-portrait hanging on the wall was hers. So, like a good aunt, I studied the information on each page and focused on all the girls who had this on their paper:

My hair is: BLACK
My eyes are: BROWN 

It still took me three tries to guess the right one. But when I did, I couldn't help but smile at the rest of what was written there:

My favorite color is: PINK
My favorite activity is: WRESTLING

It's those unexpected and unique aspects that we need to develop in our characters and also, hopefully, in ourselves. 

So, whenever I'm concerned that my characters - or I! - might be flat or boring, I'll think back to my niece - perky pigtails, sparkly t-shirt, cute little face scrunched up in a one-eyed squint and a sneer full of baby teeth that would make even the meanest pirate shudder. 

Little T is already a character in her own right. 

20 comments:

  1. Awesome post! You're right: it's our quirks that make us (and our characters) interesting and memorable. Thanks for the reminder. :)

    Your niece sounds like a real cutie. ☺

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    1. We like interesting people in real life so why wouldn't our readers like to spend some time with interesting characters, right?

      I'm a bit biased, but she really is a cutie. :)

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  2. Characters are everything!! They make an ordinary story extraordinary :)

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    1. I'll keep reading a book with a so-so plot and amazing characters, but I'll stop reading a story if it's the characters that are so-so.

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  3. That's right. She needs to be her own person Madeline. She'll do well by not following the pack.

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  4. I'm sure the boys are scared of her if she likes to wrestle.

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    1. She's a cutie pie, but she can also be a tough cookie. :)

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  5. How sweet. Love the contrast between her favorite color and activity.

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  6. There are so many quirks we can give our characters. Your niece sounds adorable.

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    1. I think quirks are what make us and our characters interesting. Of course, if we dislike someone's quirks on the page, we can close the book. In real life, well.... :)

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  7. Hahaha those interesting quirks are awesome both in characters and real people. :-)

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  8. She sounds like such a fun little girl. And of course quite a character. :)

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  9. Little T + Mr. & Mrs. Larry = a spectacular story, methinks!

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  10. Your niece sounds adorable. Yay for girls who wrestle!

    In fiction writing, I think unexpected details about a character can quickly transform a predictable character into an interesting one. I like how you used your real-life example to demonstrate this point.

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    1. For me, it's those unexpected details that make a character come alive and jump off the page.

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