Wednesday, November 23, 2011

More on character

Just a couple of small writing ideas/observations before starting the craziness of Thanksgiving. Maybe someday I'll come back and develop them some more. For the moment, I just don't want to forget them.

1. Finding your way into a character's head/voice: set up a scenario (a waiting room, a park, a train station, etc.) and have two different characters write how they would see the place. The details they notice and the mood they feel and what the setting makes them want to do should be distinct from character to character.

I think, to make this a more meaningful activity, it would be best to do this with two characters who are more or less foils to each other. This might be your hero and your antagonist--or it might be two characters who have to work together but who are very--perhaps abrasively--different. (So--not just Harry vs. Voldemort, but maybe Hermione vs. Luna.) Doing this will help you figure out what is the same (ie how they connect) and what is different (ie where the tension comes from) between these two characters.

2. Making your reader feeeel. This is just one of my weaknesses, so I'm always trying to notice why a scene works in a book for me. Or in this case, a movie. One of the best scenes I've seen in a while is the one of Neville's speech in the last Harry Potter film. Just excellently done. In that scene, the audience knows something the characters do not, and yet, when you watch it, you feel extremely sad right along with them. Why? Because the camera doesn't just show you a tragic scene; it shows the characters' reactions to what they are confronting. Ginny's scream, for example. What Neville says and does, even though he doesn't have all the facts, sets the emotion for the audience as well. And, the best moment of all--the surprise (to the characters). The camera gives you both emotions--those of the good guys and those of the bad. They could have stopped with Voldemort's reaction, but they didn't--what carries the scene and makes it even stronger is the fact that they show Hermione's reaction as well. Just stating the facts of the case isn't enough if you want your reader to feel. When you know what your character is feeling, you cease to be an outside observer, and that character's reaction can pull you along so that you are inside the story. Then you as the reader will feel--which is what an author wants, right?

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