Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nitty Gritty Characterization

Paul had a presentation for one of his classes and part of it had to do with the ethical issues surrounding animal research. To make it more light-hearted, he bought a stuffed animal puppy that he would throw to people when they wanted to answer a question. The camera is currently out of batteries, or I could show you a picture of the puppy. It's so cute! A girl in his class named the puppy Aidan.

The funny thing is that I have a peculiar connection with the name. Way back when I was thirteen years old, Aidan was one of my first major characters in a book I was writing with my friend Natalie. I'm sure the book was terrible and all, but I will always remember it with fondness. We had so much fun and we were both completely convinced that we were going to make millions with our writing.

Some of that old excitement has sprung up inside of me these last few weeks. I have been working day and night to go through each and every character in my book. I'm giving them all personality types and temperaments-- and it's a lot of work. The payoff is really huge, although it has been a little funny to see what kinds of characters I tend to write. One young man has been so easy for me to write from the beginning and he just seems real. I realized yesterday that he's just like my brother James! I can write him so well because his reactions, conversations, and preoccupations are filled with the essence of James. Weird! I had no intention of copying my brother, but it simply happened. It's wonderful to be able to write such a natural and intrinsically real character. He might as well be standing in the room with me while I'm writing him!

Characters, essentially, must be people. They must have strengths and many, many weaknesses. I'm trying to breath life into my text by making my characters get hung up over silly things and misunderstand each other because they're not paying attention, and who really try to do the right thing even though they often fail. The phrase "nitty gritty" comes to mind. I want to reveal humans in all their messy reality. That's what really makes a story good.