Saturday, April 25, 2009

Complex Creations

I was thinking last night about what a complex creation the human personality is. For every idiosyncrasy we have, there's usually a motive, and sometimes a complex story. Sometimes the reasoning is mundane, and other times its simply fascinating.

The reason I was thinking about this is a story that you might find rather boring. I was at the chiropractor yesterday and we were chatting as she worked on my back. For some reason I remembered a conversation I had years ago where I first realized why I tend to sit on my left foot when I'm working at the computer or sitting in a really cushioned chair or couch. I was in my young 20's at the time, and it was a well established habit, but not one I had ever consciously thought about.

Well, after talking for about 5 minutes I realized that I sit on my foot because my lower back doesn't hurt as much if I do that. I'm sure I had figured that out years before, but by that point it had become such a subconscious habit that I really had to think to remember why I do it. Mulling it over last night I started wondering why I don't ever sit on my right foot (yes, this is the random type of thing my mind does when I'm trying to go to sleep). Well, that has a good reason too. I was in an ice-skating accident when I was 16 that messed up my knee. If I sit on that foot for any length of time my knee will start to ache.

Like I said, a rather mundane store right? It still got me thinking as someone who loves to both read and write fiction. There are many elements in a story that will snag my interest, but one of them has always been good character development, especially when we get lots of interesting (not like my foot sitting story) details as to why the characters are that way. 

I started to wonder if I include those kind of details in my own writing? The answer is, well, sometimes! I think that in my story "Aria's Quest" that I'm publishing in this blog I haven't gotten very deep into the personalities of the characters. A large part of the reason behind that is that I'm finding it challenging to write a long story in small chunks. Each chunk needs to be a complete piece of the story after all! I'm going to challenge myself to deepen my characters a little in the story though.

I do have a longer story that I'm working on off and on, and in that story I think I have done a pretty good job of giving my characters very definite personalities full of their own identifiable quirks. The length of the story helps with that though. So far it's over 50 pages! Which is why I haven't shared it on here. Well, that and I've been too busy to work on it recently. 

So what about you? When you read a book do you love getting to know complex characters who have lots of their own personality quirks? If you write fiction, is that something you try to include? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


TiLT said...

I don't write, but character quirks and depths are of the reasons I love to read. You can really immerse yourself when you know the characters.
It's one of my fave things about Joss (visual entertainment Iknow, but still...) - his characters are so rich, you can even tell who is talking if you were to just read the lines - they all have there own way of saying things.

And I can't imagine character depth is easy in short bursts...far from it! Unless you were merely releasing an already full book in installments - it's going to be a challenge...but you always seem to take your own life challenges pretty I'm sure you can handle this one too :)

sundcarrie said...

When I am reading I love to get to know the characters. I loved The Denver Cereal because of that just as much as the story.

Erika said...

For me, what builds loyalty with a story are the characters in the book. I imagine it is difficult to write LONG segments but bless you for trying!!

uniquecommodities said...

I love knowing the characters! I also think it is critical to connecting to the story

Carapace said...

Yes! Characters and setting are my great loves in a story. I'll follow a flat or nonexistent plot to the end if I can care enough about the people or the place. That's what I try for in my stories, absolutely!

Anonymous said...

My two cents worth? Write a character sketch of Aria. Interview her. Ask her if she likes crunchy or creamy peanut butter. Toilet paper over the top or underneath. Bath towels folded and hung up or tossed on the ground. If she had a cat, what kind would she have? Does she fly straight from one place to the other or does she meander? Does she have a particular way she flies - smooth and straight, with a hiccup from a previously injured wing, bouncing like a swallow? Some of this stuff, she's never going to do, obviously, because she's a fairy - but the answers to those questions will give insight at least into her personality. Make a list of her favorite foods, her not favorite foods. Old scars - even ones as minor as cuts on her hand. Does she have any other sort of treasured accessory other than the gem? What is she afraid of? Can she whistle? Roll her tongue into a cylinder? Cross her eyes? Has she failed spectacularly at something and, more importantly, does anyone else know about it (i.e. was it a private or public failure and has she dealt with it?)

Another way to look at characters is to dash off a side conversation that you may never use - get two characters in an argument over whether the red squares or black squares are more special in chess. Make them face their greatest fear. Write three pages and call it good.

Or - for a real mind-bender - take a character and write a scene from their perspective, using "I" "me" and "my." Really get into their skin and try to think the way they do.

The great thing about all these is that, with a little tweaking, you can always incorporate them into your story if you'd like. :)

*phew* Sorry for the length - I've found in the course of my writing that I love to dig into characters, slip into their skin and find out the little details that make them unique. It helps when I write larger motivations because minor details reveal bigger character traits - a character's like of creamy peanut butter ties into his need for order and consistency and his fear of change.

Oh - and I steal character traits all the time from my favorite stories. Believe me - other stories are a gold mine sometimes. Although, don't steal anything blatantly obvious (a wizened little creature wandering around muttering "my precious" isn't a subtle lifting of ideas, it's a blatant character kidnapping). :D

Have fun, m'dear! :D You might even find some new ideas that make writing seem less like slogging through molasses and more like minding sugar from the candy caves. ;)

Me and my weird metaphors. :D