What Did You Learn?

November 19, 2009

General Writing: Revealing Character

Filed under: Character, General Writing — Tags: , — ax20 @ 12:41 am

I’ve talked about character a number of times in different places. While when writing a book you aren’t as limited in amount of pages as you are with a script or play, you still don’t have forever. The average number of words per books varies depending where you look but I’ve seen them estimated as low as 40,000 and as high as 150,000. General advice, unless you really need the 150,000, you probably don’t want to write that much. It’s a real turn off, particularly when you’re a new author. (Notice how Harry Potter started relatively short and grew in size as the series continued.)

So, after all that, the question is, how do you reveal as much about your characters as possible without solely using exposition?

details: how do they dress? what type of body do they have?
dialogue: how do they say things? do they have an accent or weird phrases? what do they like to talk about? what do they avoid talking about?
posture and body language: how do they stand? what do they do with their hands? what facial expressions are they making?
observations: what do they notice about other people? (the things characters notice about other people says something about themselves)
interactions: how do they behave around friends? family? superiors? inferiors?
behavior: what do they do when there is a need to delay gratification? what do they do when they think no one is looking?

These are only a few things to think about. Some of them are even small, easy details to add that don’t require elaborate scenes or paragraphs of exposition. Try to put as much about a character into as little space as possible so the body of the novel doesn’t get pushed aside by the need to make the character real.

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