Sunday, July 7, 2013

What Flavor Would You Choose? July Theme by Naomi Kinsman

Many of my conversations with young writers recently have involved making choices about characters. Interestingly, many writers often don't take the time to think about their characters as real people. We dream up an exciting story idea and we start writing. Maybe we know a few key facts about our characters, but we tell ourselves: I'll figure it out as I go. This isn't a bad plan, in fact, it keeps one from becoming so caught up in planning that we never start writing.

However, investing time in character development leads to such interesting places. We discover that our character likes to play tic-tac-toe with sticks and rocks, and thus we have a perfect opening scene. We learn that our character cannot bear the smell of banana, and we set their getaway scene in a banana truck.

When I follow my story where it leads and let my character develop as I go, I find that the character's traits all center around the plot. What would they do in this specific plot situation? All those lovely random details that would make my character seem more real never show up. I don't think to put in a banana truck and lose the opportunity for humor.

And thus, when I saw the theme this month--Ice Cream--I couldn't help but wonder. What flavor would my character choose? I've been indulging in more ice cream than usual lately, maybe because I'm training for a marathon and low on sugar, or maybe because CA has been unpredictably hot. What I've noticed, though, is that walking into an ice cream shop is the prelude to a hundred decisions. What flavor? Cup or cone? Waffle cone? What toppings? Whipped Cream? A cherry or no cherry? My favorite is chocolate peanut butter with a little chocolate sauce in a waffle cup with some ground up Oreo cookies sprinkled on top. I'm pretty predictable. Some characters are predictable, too. Others choose something different each time. Either way, knowing a variety of little details about one's character gives a story depth and layers and just a little bit of randomness. The way real life is. So why not ask yourself a few random questions about your character today, and see where the answers lead?

4 comments:

  1. Love this. I'm always a sucker for chocolate and nuts. My MC would mix bubble gum and root beer ice cream in a waffle cone if her parents would let her, but she has to get a cup because she's too messy.

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  2. Love this. Totally agree--if your main character isn't a person to YOU, he / she won't feel like a real person to your readers...

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  3. Great idea for character development. Am even more intrigued to know what decisions my antagonist would make. And whether characters would make choices dependent on who they were with...so much potential in this. Thanks!

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  4. Love this! I realized that I tend to have my characters love the foods I love, without stopping to think what foods THEY would love. I realized this after a writer friend told me that she knew I liked Fig Newtons because so many of my characters ate them! But I think I also just like the name Fig Newtons so much. I mean, Fig NEWTONS???

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