Sunday, April 4, 2010

Every Tom, Dick and Harry

Let's talk about characters. Most stories have some, so they must be important.

Don't get confused; a spear-chukker is not a real character. A spear-chukker is someone who comes into the picture long enough to do one thing, and is probably never seen again; the native who throws a spear at a hovering helicopter, the neighbor who complains about the barking dog. Spear-chukkers may or may not be given a name, and are given the skimpiest of descriptions.

A real character is more than a name and some physical attributes. They have personalities that are theirs because of their history, their hopes and dreams. Let's suppose Tom, Dick and Harry are all told, one day, that their girl friend is pregnant. The first reaction of Tom, age 17, might be a slight smile, for this proves that 'he is a man'. Dick, age 36, might panic, because how is he going to tell his wife? And Harry, age 71, might wonder who the father is, because he hasn't actually touched her in six months.

On the other hand, Tom, having watched his elder sister pop out a baby with every new boy friend, might encourage his girl friend to get an abortion and plan better. Dick might immediately file for divorce from his barren shrew of a wife, and Harry might have been waiting for years for an 'heir', knowing himself incapable of reproducing.

Every decision you make about your characters' past will influence their reaction to what happens in your story, so pause to think about those past experiences, and pick them carefully.

See ya next week. Trudy

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