Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Character Opinion?

How well do you know your main character? Some articles I've read suggest actives such as interviewing your characters to find out the very things that make them tick. The theory is that if you know the answers to questions that are never even asked in your story, you'll have a better grasp on how they will react to any given situation the plot may throw at them.

To some degree, I believe this has merit. Though I admit the idea of staging a mock interview with a fictional character in my head seems a bit on the crazy side. Though one might argue that to be a writer, a person must have in their possession a certain degree of insanity. Even so, it seems enough for me to simply ask the question. If you want to put it in crazy terms, I suppose it would be like asking myself the same questions about a friend. "How does so-and-so feel about racial equality?" -- They never say anything remarkably racist, but they do come from the South. Is he the type to silently oppose, or has her learned that it's best to mind one's own business unless a life is in danger? What does it take to make a good man do nothing? Is it possible that perhaps he was in this situation before? Maybe he interfered and was then chided for getting involved with an insinuation that he'd only made it worse. How can you show that in your story without dwelling on the previous event? Is it even necessary to mention said event in your story at all? Well, I suppose that depends on the context of where your story lies.

Just as with movies, certain scenes, themes, and events must be cut if the primary theme is to flourish. But, while the rest of the world may never know about that moment... You do. You know how your character would react because you've become familiar with their story. And isn't that how good stories work, with the successful convergence of each character's story into one cohesive tale?

Each of our characters should chose the path that they have been conditioned in life to choose; by their environment, the culmination of their choices, their interaction with your other characters... Unless they have a flare for uncertainty, or there is an understandable conflict that the reader can associate with, your readers should be able to count on the choices that they feel your character will make -- which doesn't necessarily mean that they have to agree that it's the best choice of action. It just has to make sense. After all, flawed characters often make the most interesting stories. And really, if you can pull it off with the utmost of subtlety, there can be a message conveyed by those mistakes, though there is a fine line between subtle and preaching.

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