Friday, September 24, 2010

Compelling Characters and Emotion

Characters are meant to be loved, hated, pitied, envied. If a character does not evoke some emotion for the reader, he/she is flat and forgettable. The story will not hold a reader's interest. Readers need to care enough about the character to feel emotion throughout the story. This can be done on different levels. There is no way to cover this subject in a few paragraphs and I don't pretend to be anywhere near an expert, but here are a few things to think about:
1. Show emotion, don't Tell. Let us see the character's feelings through their actions and facial expressions.
2. Connections are made when the character feels real. She has a strength and a flaw. He is believable and shows growth over time.
3. Something movitates the character. Use strong emotion to drive them to the goal. Does fear, vengence, or love spur the hero on to recuse the princess and how will you show that? What are the goals of each major character? Emotion adds drama as the character moves toward a goal.
4. The Point of View of the character whose perspective is being shown can give the imformation about himself (as well as about setting and plot). Make what is relevant to the character become relevant to the reader. We learn more about him through his eyes while emotion seeps into the picture that the reader sees.
5. Give the guard at the door, the pharmacist, the waitress a brief description or characteristic worth mentioning to create visual images in minor characters. You don't want to introduce each attendee at the party, but we can form an opinion or get an emotional glimpse by an action such as a woman fluffing her hair.
My thanks to Elana Johnson and her challenge to write about characterization. Check out the other bloggers who posted this topic today. Put all that info to use and Bam!--you've got compelling characters. (I wish it were as easy as it sounds but improvement is certain with knowledge and effort.)


Shannon O'Donnell said...

These are all good rules to follow. Thanks for participating! :-)

Melissa said...

These are tried and true rules we all must follow.

Especially the showing emotion... I can't tell you how quick someone loses me when they keep telling me how the character and by proxy me, is supposed to be feeling.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I love what you said about being pitied and envied...I haven't seen that mentioned in many people's posts. WTG!

Renae W. Mackley said...

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate the comments.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Showing emotion is huge. A tear, biting the lip, a sigh... character's actions can tell us so much about them and what they are feeling without always having to resort to their thoughts in italics.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Emotions and connections are vital in creating a compelling character. Good post.