Monday, November 26, 2007

Keep Focusing on Those Character Details

Last Friday, I did a post on the importance of adding detail to your characters. The post was called It’s in the Details, Folks.

I talked about how your characters’ quirks or traits can set them apart from other characters, making them memorable to the reader. Even minor characters need to have something that makes them special.

When you’re writing, another way to set apart your characters is through things associated with them – their car, their house or apartment, something they treasure. Look around your own home. What makes your living room different from anyone else’s living room? Is it ultra modern? Country? Full of antiques? Is there one thing that you just love – the coffee table, the stuffed bear sitting in the rocking chair, the blanket draped over the chair? Why? Was the coffee table hand made by your grandfather? Did the stuffed bear belong to your daughter? Do you like to snuggle under the blanket while you read? Now think about your main character. What would they have in their living room and why.

What about the house as a whole. What color are the walls? All white? Pale pink? Green? Is each room a different color, some rooms multiple colors? What does that say about that character?

What kind of car do they drive and why? A hybrid? A Hummer? A sedan? A luxury car? Is it new or second hand? Is it so old they hate driving it and they’re in constant fear of it breaking down in traffic? Does that make them avoid getting on the main highway in rush hour? Does it make them take the main roads instead of less traveled roads at night? Does it mean they always keep their cell phone with them? Does their Hummer or giant SUV make them feel powerful, invulnerable?

Does he carry a pack of cigarettes in his pocket, even though he gave up smoking ten years ago? Why? Does she never leave home without her planner, even when she’s not on her way to the office?

When it comes to characters, it’s not just the quirks that set them apart. It’s also the things they carry with them or keep in their lives.

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