Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Characters and Creativity

I was going to make these separate posts, but then I realized how closely entertwined they were. I don't think I could do a blog post on either without referencing the other--a lot--and they would both probably end up being short, even by this blog's standards, so here we are.

My characters tend to evolve very quickly or not at all. From what I've seen looking around at books, TV shows, movies, etc., this seems to be very often the case. If a character is the main character, by the time the story has started, you already have everything figured out about the character. For a background character, there is almost nothing figured out. If anything's there, it tends to be stereotypes.

There are exceptions, but my point is that, at least for me, characters rarely evolve gradually in my head. I come up with one or two traits, and then I have the entire personality in my head as well as a full visual. This ends up making it very difficult to communicate what the character is like, since I usually write short stories. Some of them are only five pages (Microsoft Word, Arial font size 10, quarter-inch margins). Why is it so hard to communicate? Imagine you're talking to your friends, about a friend. Now imagine someone overhearing this conversation. Does this give a good idea of the friend's personality? If I were to write a novel that showed the character in many different situations, that might be ideal, since it could be surprising, but still have a cohesive feel. However, presently I lack the patience to write a novel. Who knows? Maybe someday that will change. I already have a setting and characters and a skeletal outline if I do gain it.

Creativity works the same way for me: Stepwise. I'll have several things bouncing around in the back of my head for a while, and then something will hit--a major emotional reaction, such as anger or elation, a new discovery, whatever. And the story will all fall into place.

I would like to take a moment to distinguish between a story and, say, a manuscript. A story, to me, is all the stuff that happened. If you were there, you have the story, or at least a story. It takes someone with a fair bit of skill to come up with a good manuscript or a good story, but the difference is that you have to come up with the manuscript. You could stumble across a story, with luck and observation.

So I'm back to the same problem I had with characters. I can write the story as it happened, but will that be the best it can be? I usually write from first person, and so use a certain character's voice. That gives me some idea. But which details do I bring out? Certainly I can't describe every detail. Even if I wanted to, doing so destroys the pacing. And yet, not adding enough detail does the same thing. I solved this in one story simply by having a character tend to get lost in her thoughts--oh, they already had that conversation? Darn, I wasn't listening. [Summary] Ah. And that also allows me to have long pauses between long series of quotation marks without having to describe everything about the environment. But one way I try to improve my writing is to write many different characters, and so that it obviously not always and option. Recently I've taken to giving each of them a recurring quirk of some sort, and this helps pacing, but it still doesn't give an idea of the environment.

...Well, that and it means a large number of them are insane, one way or another. *unsettling laugh*

Hi. This is me, inviting comments. Please?

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