Monday, January 22, 2007

Establishing Character

I had a busy weekend. My husband and I are still painting. We finished my office (blue and yellow), then moved on to the guest room (all yellow). We got it all done except for the trim. Still have the trim in the bathroom and closet to do also.

But the weekend started off great. That’s because on Friday I got together with a big group of friends. We’re all writers of one kind or another and you couldn’t ask for a better convergence of personalities. We meet at various houses, supposedly for lunch, but it goes beyond that since “lunch” usually lasts around 3 or 4 hours.

We gathered at a perfect house. Not a humongous house like those around the Barton Creek Country Club. Not a cozy lake house overlooking Lake Travis. The house was perfect because it so very much reflects the owner. It’s bright; it’s funky; it’s elegant; it’s colorful; it’s warm; it’s inviting. It’s HER. You could be blindfolded, taken to this house, and when you saw it, you’d know whose home you were at.

Now that’s something to keep in mind when you’re establishing character. The character’s home tells a lot about that person. It’s not black or white – either it’s a mansion with white-everything except for the masters on the wall or it's a disheveled rundown dump. Also keep in mind that every character’s home, office, car, etc. doesn’t have to match your tastes. They should match the tastes and lifestyle of the character and his/her personality. Even more than that, they should reflect the character; they should be an extension of the character.

The reader should be able to enter their home and learn more about the character than what’s been told to them. Yes, as someone said, it’s all in the details. But for you to use the environment to establish character, you don’t have to have a lot of details. The room doesn’t have to be described ad nauseum. One or two things will tell the reader more than you could describe in a page. Like the delicate, porcelain, hooting owl on the coffee table. Or the twirling, kicking, pom-pom Barbie on the bookshelf.

Or the blue and yellow office with the upside-down shelves on the ceiling.

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