Anatomy of A Character

Anatomy of A CharacterRecently, it has been Character development that has really been crossing my mind. As a writer, surely that’s the first thing that should be delved into.

More often than not, I’m so excited about the premise of the story, or the plot, the world I have created in my head, that I just throw some bodies in there to lead the reader on a tour.

Over the weekend, I wrote about figuring out what is in a character’s pocket, talking about how knowing your character is knowing what they would or wouldn’t be carrying with them. This is an old and repeated exercise that I’ve come across in many writing classes when I was in high school, but never one I gave much serious thought to.

My characters don’t have pockets – so there! I thought triumphantly, thinking I had beaten their assignment. The truth is that had I given the thought on a deeper level, to think that it’s not just what is in the character’s pocket, but just over-all understanding of the character, maybe I’d have better stories.

I have a self-published novel that I don’t like talking about because I think its’ crap. I know a writer is their own worst critic, but over all, I don’t know anything about my characters, which I think excludes a level of depth. I have two characters, Tristan and Virgil, as opposite as can be, yet extremely the same. I personally am a great fan of Tristan, I have a lot of love for him, though Virgil I think is kind of a wuss – which is fine. That’s what I want him to be. Yet all the sympathy of the readers has gone towards Virgil, and every one has no time for Tristan. How is this?

I was reading an article/blog post yesterday by Inklined Writers that simply posed two questions:

  1. What would your character die for?
  2. Would your character kill under any circumstances?

At first I thought these questions were a little too broad, especially since I write fantasy, and everyone’s gotta kill someone at some point in fantasy. However, under normal circumstances, would they? You know, the circumstances where they weren’t transformed into another species, where they weren’t in a climate of war, if there were no fae meddling around in their lives.

Throughout the story, Virgil goes through changes – change of form, mentality, experiences new emotions, experiences a need of duty and so on. While his duty might be that of “Of course I can fight and kill, of course I can avenge my love”, I don’t think he could or would. I think he would be too afraid when he got up to bat.

Tristan is adaptable. He couldn’t consciously kill at the beginning, but accidents happen, and he numbed himself to cope. Perhaps he could, perhaps he has. There are many lost years. Perhaps this is where I need some more development for him.

Would either of them die for anything? Once again, Virgil might think that he would die for love, die for honor, die for any of that noble stuff that knights are meant to die for, but at the end of the day, I think he is too afraid, and a little too much of a wuss. Tristan flat-out knows he wouldn’t die for anything.

This is the difference between the two, one has the pretense of being noble and honorable while the other one is real. No one likes the real guy, except me.

But what the hell do they have in their pockets?


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