If Your Character Isn’t ‘Normal,’ Can We See It?
Human nature is a fascinating thing and it’s especially fascinating to the writer.
The writer’s mind is sharp; taking in every detail she sees and hears around her and using it to her advantage – to turn it into a story.
Human beings are a favourite subject to the writer. She studies them, she analyzes them, she tries to understand them because only when she’s perceptive can she be a true writer.
Every human being is unique and our uniqueness comes from the personality we posses. It comes from our backgrounds, our beliefs and from the way life shapes us.
Some people aren’t ‘normal.’
And what we consider normality is the way the majority of the human race thinks and acts.
There are those that suffer from a mental illness or have mental scars, which make them act ‘abnormal’. These types of people don’t act like the rest of us. Their frame of mind isn’t healthy and that influences their thoughts, their actions, and their speech.
So, if your character suffers from schizophrenia for example, he isn’t going to act normal.
I’ve read quite a few stories where the character was unbelievable. He didn’t come to life because the writer, not knowing much about the illness, didn’t bother to research it. Instead, she merely stated the character wasn’t normal, instead of showing us what makes him that way, and throughout her story had her character act normal.
If you wish to write about something you aren’t sure of …
The main objective in your story is to show your character in action. If you don’t know how he’s supposed to act, how can you write about him convincingly?
Your readers will enjoy your story even more if you give them the chance to experience that ‘abnormality’ in your character. Readers like to learn new things and the stories, which give them insight into something, are more interesting.
So, absorb your readers in your character’s inner world.
If your character has mental scars because of something, which happened to him in the past, then that character isn’t going to act normal either. His past will affect his present and you’ll need to show the readers how and why it’s affecting him now.
But before you play the psychologist, research. Don’t take the chance of losing credibility. If your character isn’t in a normal frame of mind then he isn’t going to act normal – so don’t make him.
Do You Show The Change In Your Character When He’s Experiencing A Different Emotion?
There are several types of emotions and each, in a different way, affects us. Each emotion will affect your character in a different way too – He isn’t going to be the same all the time.
There may be one dominant emotion in your story. For instance, the character might feel unappreciated. Then something might happen that will change his perception of things. Do you show your readers how he changes? Does his…
Body language change?
Facial expression change?
Way of thinking change?
Or do you still portray him as initially and merely state that a change in events has occurred?
Positive emotions make us feel like the world is our oyster. Negative emotions make us feel like the world has closed in on us.
You know how each emotion affects you. Use it in your story.
Have You Given Your Character Any Traits?
An ordinary person is one that blends in with the crowd. Your character may be ordinary but there has to be something extraordinary about him, in order to choose him for a main character.
After all, to select him for the important role of main character, there has to be something special about him to impresses us.
That special something might be…
A physical feature
Does he have big nose? Does he limp?
An aspect of his personality
Does he have a clever wit or an extraordinary sense of humor or is he ill tempered?
Something about his way of thinking
Does he have vision? Is he wise?
His psychological world
Does he have a mental illness? Does he have psychic powers?
What trait have you given your character?
A trait doesn’t have to be positive. It can be something negative about the character.
Good or bad, it will distinguish him from any other character and bring him more to life for your readers.
An average character won’t do – he needs to be larger than life. Traits will enable him to be so.
Therefore, if you give your character a quality, exaggerate that quality.
? If he’s kind, make him kinder than the average person.
? If he’s brave, make him braver than normal.
? If he’s a leader of an army, make him a leader like Alexander The Great, whose name has not been forgotten through the passage of time.
Whatever you choose to do has to be relevant to your story.
Traits are there because we want readers to focus on them.
They play a major role in the story. Don’t give your character a big nose if it’s not a big deal and don’t make him extraordinary brave if that’s not what he’s supposed to be.
Do You Show How Your Main Character Relates To Other Characters In Your Story?
A real person doesn’t relate to everyone equally. He will relate differently to his boss, differently to his colleagues, differently to his spouse, differently to his parents etc.
And in regards to a group of people, say his colleagues, he will relate to each individual differently because there’ll be some he has a higher regard over others.
How your character relates to other characters in your story will depend on who they are and how he feels about them. But he has to be seen to differently relate to them because that’s one of the things that make him real.
So, in the presence of his boss does he…
• Stand rigid?
• Sit awkwardly on the chair?
In the presence of his best friend does he…
• Is more open?
In the presence of a colleague he dislikes, does he…
• Barely speak to him?
• Avoid eye contact?
What about when he speaks? How does his voice sound? What is the pitch? The tone?
What’s his posture, mannerisms, facial expressions like? What’s his body language saying?
Does your character relate to everyone equally?
Does Your Character Reflect?
Action is what keeps our stories moving and the readers’ interest hooked.
There should be a balance in your story though. All action tires readers and too many quiet moments bore them.
As you write and practice your craft, you will gain a sense of balance. You will know when to pump the readers’ adrenaline and know when to give them a breather.
Speaking of breathers…
After you take the readers for a ride with an action packed scene, then it’s time to give them a rest. You can do that by having your character reflect - to think of what just happened. In order for your character to grow emotionally, he has to understand what is happening to him. Also, when he thinks things through, he can decide on the next course of action.
Readers are interested in the character’s thoughts because they are interested in the character. They want to know all about him and especially like the fact that they’re in his mind, peeking in at his thoughts. So write down his thoughts but…
Remember the balance we talked about?
Only have the character reflect when it progresses your story and let him do this when you’re in a quiet moment.
Is Your Character Acting ‘Out Of Character?’
Our characters are the driving forces behind our stories. It is they what our stories are all about. So before we sit down to write about these people, we have to take the time to fully develop them till they are ‘real’ in our minds.
Can you write convincingly about someone you don’t know? Of course not. So you shouldn’t attempt it because that’s when you’ll have your character acting ‘out of character.’
What does it mean when a character is ‘acting out of character?’ It means that the character doesn’t act according to the type of person he is.
Let me illustrate this point in the following example.
We’ll take three types of personalities...
1. Quick tempered
Now let’s place these three characters in a situation...
They’re driving along a suburban street and someone, backing out of their driveway, smashes into their car. Now, depending on what type of personality your character possesses, he will act accordingly.
If he’s quick tempered, he might jump out of his car and start abusing the other driver.
If he’s calm, he might approach the other driver and calmly resolve the situation.
If he’s timid, he might even start apologizing.
These characters will be acting ‘in character’ because they’re acting according to their personality.
But in my plot I want this situation resolved calmly. So if I take my quick tempered character and have him calmly get out of the car, calmly assess the damage, and calmly resolve the situation, what will I be doing?
I will have him act ‘out of character’ because it suits my plot. I’ll be manipulating this character to act like I want him to act and not like he’s suppose to.
The result is, I would lose credibility in the eyes of my readers because my character is not believable.
As you plot or write, you will have to keep the character’s personality in mind. In every event, ask yourself, “How would this character act? What would he do? What would he say?”
Always consult with your character. You are writing about him after all.
Can We See What Type Of Personality Your Character Possesses?
For the character to be distinguishable in your story, you will have to make him distinguishable. We’ve already covered traits, now let’s take this further.
What make us unique are all those little things, which come together, to make us into what we are. The overall of all those little things make up our personality.
Do you show your character’s personality in your story?
Is he a three-dimensional figure? Does he ooze life?
You can show your character’s personality through several ways…
Let’s see an example here…
Let’s say your character is considerate. How can you show this aspect of his personality in the above points?
By what he says, which shows readers he is considerate of others.
What he does, so we can see he’s considerate. How he puts his own needs aside for others.
How he reacts when placed in situations. This will bring out his personality more so, if he’s placed in a trying situation. When something is important to him but puts it aside to help someone else, we will see his consideration even more.
How he thinks of others rather than just himself.
We can tell the readers he’s considerate.
For readers to see your character’s personality, you have to show it to them. Implement any of the above methods, when appropriate, in your story. Bring your character to life by making him a real person. A real person has his own unique personality.
About the author:
Besides his passion for writing, Nick Vernon runs an online gift site where you will find gift information, articles and readers funny stories. Visit http://www.we-recommend.com
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