Last week, I talked about characters’ history, a past that shaped their personality. I thought about that this week as I wrote a difficult scene. I had two men, same age, cousins who had grown up like brothers, in the same town, with the same extended family, sharing everything. One evening a woman they had both dated reappeared, ready to exchange sexual favors for a job at a company they both own.
Now, I could have made that woman a desperate divorcee with two kids to support, but she’s not that type of woman, and this wasn’t her story.
So, I wondered, I’d made those men so much alike, how did I have them react differently to this?
Chuck was easy. He squirmed. He wasn’t interested in this woman, but couldn’t bring himself to toss her out. He brushed her hands away, told her repeatedly he couldn’t help her, dodged all her efforts to get closer.
Bob couldn’t react the same way. I paused to consider. What would have been different during their lives, and how would that influence their reactions in this situation? I actually came up with two things, one in their past (parents) and one in their present (girl friend). Chuck’s old-fashioned parents had taught him to be nice to women. Bob’s more modern parents had taught him to give respect where it was due. Plus, the girl Bob wants was extracting herself from an abusive marriage and was easily unnerved by conflict. So when the divorcee set her sights on Bob, I made him stand absolutely still. He doesn’t respect her, but he can’t order her out without upsetting the woman he wants. Eventually, he tells her to go to HR for an application, expecting to talk to HR as soon as she leaves. He looked calm, but his blood was boiling, because all the time the divorcee rubbed against him, he was thinking of the woman of his dreams.
Two men with the same background in so many ways. But I still managed to make them different when confronted with the same situation.
Everybody is different. Make sure your characters have differences when the need arises. See ya next week. Trudy