People, of course, are not automated creatures, and an author cannot "create" them indelibly on paper by mechanized means. Instead, the writer gives them the breath of life subtly, by using often small but distinctive features—one or more (not too many!) physical and/or behavioral element(s)—which make that character distinct. John Lescroat’s Glitsky is always glum (even though he loves family and friends without restraint) and bears a scar which crosses his lips to blemish his appearance and frighten the observer. Lee Child’s Jack Reacher is ready for the road (usually by means of hitchhiking) by putting his toothbrush in his pocket along with a couple of bucks or a few thousand, whatever he happens to have. He’s also indelible to reader by being 6'5" tall and weighing two and a half hundred pounds (all muscle, of course).
Or one identifying characteristic might be some unusual verbal ploy—the criminal who cannot speak without profanity, the loving father who cannot address his children without criticizing, the mom who characteristically predicts doom in all situations, then sobs. Consider Dickens, with his Uriah Heep who is cloyingly humble (until he’s not). And there’s Oliver Twist, poor child, who always wants "some more." Shakespeare—a master at subtle delineations that make his characters live on through the centuries. Who has trouble picturing Lady Macbeth wiping her dry hands? And (same drama) those three witches who will forever be stirring a big black (as I see it) pot of repugnant contents.
Because my characters are so real to me, I have to make special effort to dream up and throw in (and subtly repeat) a few identifying elements for each one who isn’t simply a walk-through. I "see" and recognize every person—why can’t everyone else? But believe me, your reader needs help at internalizing someone who is, after all, your character and may even be based on someone you have known.
Here, There and Otherwhere is available now from Amazon and B&N.
Stay up to date on Phyl's books at KalanaPress, Phyl'sBooks, email: email@example.com, Phone (603)654-9240, or Mail: 374 Burton Hwy, Wilton, NH 03086
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AND...stop by Phyl Manning's blog to find out more about the Elephant Themed Contest Phyl is sponsoring.
Sure, they can paint—but only YOU can write. Yes, about elephants. We’re hosting a two-level contest with (a) modest $$ winnings and (b) possible inclusion in Elephanthology, a planned anthology of elephant lore—short stories of fiction or narrative nonfiction (imaginative writing, not articles per se), poetry, flash fiction . . . all published with author’s name for each piece.
To find out more, check out Phyl’s website.