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Who is that guy in the back...?

A couple of days ago, I attended a seminar. I know what you're thinking, who cares right?
At this particular seminar, a guy I know got up and presented his topic and it got me thinking. Not the topic itself, but the way he presented it. I sat there and listened to this man nearly blow the speakers apart with the shear volume of his voice.  If any of you have ever listened to a natural public speaker you'd know what I mean. He was one of those people that really could talk the legs of a chair.
Now you may be asking yourself what am I on about, and the answer is simple. 


Most of the interesting characters in any story have numerous traits that keep the reader involved with what the character is up to and continue with the character as they go through hell.  Character traits flesh out a character and make them real.
For example. I have a character in my novel (in progress) that, when he was first created, his only purpose was to walk into a room and give a message. I knew that in the plan of the novel he was going to become a big part later on in the story, but at this point he was simply a foreground flat character. Whenever I read through it I couldn't work out why the scene wasn't working. It was only after I had some of my learned colleagues read the scene did I learn where I was going wrong - I was forcing a 2 dimensional character into a four dimensional world. 

I believe the exact quote was: "He's too flat. Either round him out, or lose him."
-by the way, being blunt is constructive way is a wonderful way to get a guy's attention-

Anyway, I had to go away and round the character out. Most of the time problems with a flat character can be solved by simple modifications, like:
  • look at the scene and make sure that there is a sufficiently good reason for the character to be there.
  • Add further description to the character - the proof is in the details...
  • IF all else fails, completely rework the character.
Whatever you do, make your characters as real as possible. If they're real to you, then you're less likely to have a flat character.

Happy writing.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 5th, 2009 09:22 am (UTC)
Ah, character. I do LOVE character. I mean, there are some characters that make me want to put my fist through my comptuer screen (Doyle when he's being particularly stubborn) and some who make me want to knife them (Lizzie, just in general). What I love most about characters, though, is when they do things that you never intend for them to. Like Lizzie, for example. She came into LRH a whole two chapters before I initially intended. And Liam's attitude to Doyle was never supposed to be as intense as it is. Actually, Liam wasn't even a major character in the initial outline but he turned himself into one. I find the scenes that the characters take control of are the best ones I've got (having come from a deeper level of consciousness, I suppose).
Oct. 17th, 2009 11:00 pm (UTC)
Excellent post Andrew. It's interesting, and humorous. I laughed out loud at the fella's booming voice over the speakers. And loved the comment of, 'round him out or lose him. (John?) I'm looking forward to the next post!

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )