Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Keys to Writing a Dynamic Novel #2

Showing actions that reflect personality.

We've all done it. It's in our nature as writers to observe people. We sit in a business lobby, an airport, a coffee shop watching the comings and goings. Our eyes lock onto the woman in the white fur coat with a small white highland terrier cradled in her arm, or the harried-looking business man who looks like he slept in his suit all night. We see how their appearance reflects their personalities. Or what they are going through.

In writing a novel, there is a drive to focus on the physical details of our characters. But descriptions are empty without the show of emotions. You have to give the reader the whole package. Appearance and personality. What kinds of behavior in your character convey his/her emotions?

Here are a few.

Your character is overjoyed at some good piece of news. She isn't a bump on a log just to sit there and stoically respond. Instead she may do some of the following.

Kick off her shoes and whirl around the room.
Break out the carton of ice cream from the freezer and tear open the lid, exclaiming it is time to celebrate.

Bad news arrives, and as it is being told to her give your reader a strong visual set of actions to show the emotion that is building in your character as the news unfolds.

She twists something in her hands.
She messes with her hair.
She turns away, shuts her eyes, and pumps her legs up and down without her feet leaving the floor.

Make a list of personality traits you have developed in your character. Next to these traits write out some of the actions your character will do to show those traits. You do not want to say 'she felt sad'. You want to show she felt sad. A list will help you develop a well-rounded character that is flesh and blood, which is what your readers want.


Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Rita -

Great lesson!

Haven't seen you around the blogosphere lately. Hope all is well. :)


Jessica said...

Wonderful post on showing. I liked your examples, esp. the one about her leg pumping up and down, feet not leaving the floor. Nice!

I try to make my characters reactions fit their personalities.