Character and Characterization March 13, 2010Posted by pacejmiller in Novel, On Writing.
Tags: Aspiring Writer, character, characterisation, characterization, characters, Fargo, jerry lundergaard, plot, Writing, writing tips
So I’m catching up with my readings and I stumble across a few articles about “character” and “characterization”, which has me thinking about my stagnant fantasy novel and this new project I have in the works.
In both the planning and writing phases, I’ve been doing a lot of “characterization” – you know, what the character looks like, how old they are, their personality and habits, their qualities and follies. But I haven’t given enough thought to the “character” of these…um..characters.
I’ve always had trouble getting into the heads of my characters. I am quick to create them, but rarely do I put myself in their shoes, find out what motivates them, what frightens them – what they are truly about. According to this McKee article I read:
TRUE CHARACTER is revealed in the choices of a human being makes under pressure – the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature.
Yes, he’s right! And then I realised that I actually have numerous high pressure situations where my characters have an opportunity to show what they are really about under the surface, but I never explored it. Not properly, anyway. No wonder I feel like things aren’t working despite what I feel is a good plot.
Another thing I’ve been wondering is whether I’ve been creating too many characters – so many that I don’t have time to give them the time or chance to get to know them. Should I keep them and give them more “screen time”? Or should I get rid of them completely? It’s a difficult balance, and it’s something I have to work out by myself.
So three lessons from all of this. One, “characterization” is easy, developing “character” is hard. I need to start imagining myself in the bodies of my characters and get inside their psyche. Two, true character is revealed through the choices people make. I need to rewrite some of my scenes to bring that out. Three, superfluous characters need to be canned, key characters with a purpose need to be explored.
Now I will go take a nap.
[PS: apparently, Aristotle considered the importance of both plot and character, and concluded that story is primary, character secondary. Can’t both be equally important?]