More on Characterization

I’ve heard writing fiction described as “socially acceptable schizophrenia”. As writers, we attempt to create entire people out of whole cloth–each of them separate, unique individuals. This can be quite a feat, and here are a few tricks I’ve learned that help me keep my multiple personalities separate.

1. Give your characters a theme song.
The human brain loves to link concepts with music. This is one of the reasons music can be so powerful, why we have trouble listening to certain songs after a break-up, or have emotional attachments to music we heard as children. To help you mentally isolate your characters and keep them from melding together into sort of mushy, grey extensions of ourselves, find a “theme song” for each of them–something that represents the personality and temperament you’re trying to portray.

Once you’ve found your character’s theme song, only listen to it while writing or brainstorming about that character. This will create that mental link between the music and the concept, and the song will act like a little light switch whenever you need to get “in character”.

2. Consider your narrative voice.
This is most applicable when writing from a 3rd person point of view, which is the most common POV used for modern fiction. Going back to the characters I described in my earlier post on characterization: When writing Gideon, my quiet, reserved main character, I use a slightly more distant 3rd person. I don’t get too involved in descriptions of his thoughts and emotions, instead relying on dialogue and action to illustration what’s going on inside.

On the other hand, Tay (my loud, effusive, smart-mouthed secondary character) reads like a lively stream of consciousness. A third character, Sera, is a much more emotional, introspective character. I make an effort to illustrate her emotional reaction to the things that go on around her, and the conclusions she draws from those impressions.Varying your narrative voice when changing your POV can really help separate and define your characters.

~ RM

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