Relationships Focus Characters

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OK, so I have this revision to do and one key element of it is to deepen characterization and relationships. Uh, oh. My weakness! How did the editor know that it was my weak area? Even after spending agonizing hours on characterization, I’m still not hitting the mark.

Which left me stumped on this revision. I’m not blocked. Just don’t know what to do next.

Here’s my analogy. In China, we passed by open doorways that led to teensy courtyards from which four houses (or more) might front onto. We could look through the doorways, but the glimpse was brief, you didn’t get much detail.

That’s how I tend to write characters, from the outside looking in. But this week, I’ve been rephrasing the question.
NOT: How can I deepen this character?
INSTEAD: What is the relationship in this scene? How do these characters affect each other? What is each character fighting for in this scene?

The answers can NOT change the plot, the actual actions of what is going on. I’m actually happy with the plot. Instead, I’m looking at the inner person, the relationship which is revealed by the plot events.

Asking about relationship seems easier to me than asking about how to characterize. It’s interactive, as one character does something, the other must respond. If I can find a central thing around which I can center conflict and reveal character with that, it will work.

In the current scene, the characters are discussing going somewhere and they both agree that they need to do that. Well, there is conflict in the plot, because it’s a daring thing they do. In the revision, though, I’m having Character A hesitate, wondering if she should consult her father or someone other adult before going. Meanwhile, Character B is impulsive and confident. “A” generally has a superior attitude to B, so she can’t let him get the upper hand by being so bold. And thus the relationship develops. Who will bluff the other into action? Who will compromise their ideals to prove to the other they are tough?

It’s like zooming into that Chinese courtyard to see the small details. Suddenly, the relationship has revealed details of the character and we see clearly.




From Rejection to Acceptance

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1 Comment
  • Judith L. Roth
    August 9, 2011

    Thanks, Darcy. I’m in the midst of a novel revision too, and these are helpful questions for me to use….