Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Creating Short Stories - 09: More on Characters

Creating Short Stories 08 – More on Characters

Please don’t read that as moron characters, although some of them may fit that description for the story.

As I mentioned previously, I use a NEO from Renaissance Learning Hand written journals present a viable alternative. One benefit of using a pen and ink format: you can create drawings of people, places and things. I haven’t quite figured out how to do that on the NEO word processor, yet.

Often, I use these sketches to create difficult scenarios in the stories. In Elevator 37 (I hope it will be a best seller.), one of the scenes had the protagonist, Thom Stanton, in a dreadful predicament. A hideous being stood ready to terminate him. I could see it—almost—but it wasn’t clear. I grabbed my sketchpad and oil pastels and drew it until I could see all the elements clearly. Then writing the scene became easy—well, almost easy.

Getting back to keeping a journal to take notes on characters and other vitals of stories, one character I saw, an older woman with hair that touched below her hips often frequents a coffee shop I visit. A rather batty personality dwells within her psyche. One day she entered with that endless crop of hair tucked under a man’s hat, making it appear she had shorn hers locks.

This provoked me to think she may have gone off the deep end, which isn’t too difficult to imagine. If you ever saw or heard her, that statement would make sense. This character must appear in the novel I’m currently writing, MORB . I have a perfect scene with her in mind.

See how bad writers can be.

A few minutes later, she hopped on her broom and sped out the door. Two thirty-something men walked into the coffee shop, nattily dressed. Sharp creases showed on their white as a bleached road in Florida shirts and pants that shouted “custom tailored for me”; the Windsor knots and their multi-colored silk ties created the impression that cost never mattered with any of their purchases. I had to wonder why. Why, if they had all this wealth they would come to this coffee shop, in this part of town, to have a business meeting? I had to discover their purpose.

Were they faking it? Could this mean development for the community? The kind of development that pushed poor folks out of the quaint, houses of an earlier era that gave texture to the neighborhood they struggled to maintain for their lives. What harbinger did they represent?

Provide plenty of detail about each character. Describe how they react, how they dress, how they move, how they think and what they say because it all determines who they are. You want the readers to see a piece of themselves in the character so they can identify with the individual you depict. You want the reader to say, “Yeah, that’s me, or “Yeah, that’s so and so.”
It gives clues as to who the character is.

When it comes to characters, specificity matters.
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