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:

Dana said...

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. ☺

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

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. :)

Optimistic Existentialist said...

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

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

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.

Maurice Mitchell said...

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

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I hope she keeps it up. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

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

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

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

Donna Volkenannt said...

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

Annalisa Crawford said...

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

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

She really is funny. :)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

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.... :)

Misha Gerrick said...

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

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

So true! :)

Julie Flanders said...

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

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

She really is a lot of fun. :)

Anonymous said...

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

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

The ideas never stop for us writers, do they? :)

Cynthia said...

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.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

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