Friday, August 19, 2011

The Characteristics of Characterization, Part Two

Last time we discussed the difference between characters and caricatures in writing.  You could also look at this as the difference between three-dimensional figures and one-dimensional ones who exist solely for the sake of letting the story happen to them.  So what would be the best, easiest way of trying to avoid caricature?

One thing that I have found helpful is to base your characters, at least in part, on real people.  This doesn't mean that you have to model a character so closely on a real person that your "subjects" can see themselves in your characters when they read your work.  However, you should at least use enough of their real traits so that your characters at least have some basis in reality.  That will enable them to think, talk and act like real people, so that their behavior in and reactions to the situations that you put them in will be believable.

Sometimes you can base more than one character on the same person.  Sometimes you can meld traits of two different people into one character (so long as they do not contradict each other).  If you are writing shorter fiction, don't divulge more than what the story requires.  It may be OK to mention a character's love for spicy food if you're writing a 300+ page novel, but if you're doing a short story with a 5,000 word limit, you probably don't want to mention that unless it comes into play with the plot.

Is characterization easy?  No, it's something you have to work at.  However, it is something you can attain with practice.  Philippians 4:13.--SMS

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