Skip to main content

Thoughts on Characterization

One of the weaknesses I often notice when judging unpublished manuscripts in blind contests has to do with characterization. Or lack of characterization, I should say. Dialogue in particular should not be interchangeable. Each character, even the most minor, should have his or her own voice.

As I'm working on my latest novel, I've noticed a need to go back and work on a pair of brothers I've developed. The trouble? I haven't differentiated these two minor but recurring characters from each other.

Doesn't work for me. After all, how many times have I heard friends with multiple kiddos (I have only one) exclaim, "I can't believe those two came from the same raw ingredients!" How many times have I seen, when I taught middle schoolers, siblings who couldn't be more different? Even when I've owned dogs with similar stats (same breed, gender, age), their personalities have been remarkably different.

We owe each of our characters no less uniqueness. Let the mantra for the day be: "No character is secondary in his/her own story, and no mother ever raised her kid to be a redshirt."

So I'm off to do some editing... and build a little character.


Anonymous said…
I was a huge Star Trek fan in the early 70's and never figured out the red-shirt thing! Wow. We learn something new every day.

I'd heard such stock characters called "spearholders" (from Shakespearian plays) long before I ever heard of redshirts. But I love that one, since I was once a huge Trekkie.

Thanks for stopping by!

Popular posts from this blog

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button": Did you love it or hate it?

Earlier this week, Colleen and I went to see "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", the extraordinary movie based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I loved it. Colleen not s'much. (I was sitting there choked in tears at the end of the three hour film, so I only vaguely remember her saying something about "watching paint dry.") I want to see it again, so I'm trying to get the Gare Bear to go with me this weekend, but I won't be surprised if he reacts the same way Colleen did. The movie is long. And odd. It requires patience and a complete suspension of disbelief that modern audiences simply aren't trained for, so you've got to be in the right mood for it. The same is true of the short story, though the story and script have very little in common -- at least superficially. The story is very Fitzgerald (though it's not an example of his best writing, IMHO), and the setting -- Baltimore during the industrial revolution, Spanish Americ

APATHY AND OTHER SMALL VICTORIES by Paul Neilan is only good if you enjoy things like laughter

The only thing Shane cares about is leaving. Usually on a Greyhound bus, right before his life falls apart again. Just like he planned. But this time it's complicated: there's a sadistic corporate climber who thinks she's his girlfriend, a rent-subsidized affair with his landlord's wife, and the bizarrely appealing deaf assistant to Shane's cosmically unstable dentist. When one of the women is murdered, and Shane is the only suspect who doesn't care enough to act like he didn't do it, the question becomes just how he'll clear the good name he never had and doesn't particularly want: his own.