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:~: Tuesday, July 25, 2006 :~:

Deepening Character with a Powerful Tri-fecta: Internals, POV Filters & Props

For those who went to Atlanta and are having too much damn fun to check the blog...they missed out, because I've had a revelation on character development and plan to share the powerful insights with those of you stuck at home like me.

Shut up! I am so NOT jealous!!

As I've mentioned in previous posts, my agent felt the characters in Safe in Enemy Arms weren't "3-D" enough. Getting into these characters' heads hasn't been easy. In fact, it's been painfully frustrating.

Along the way, I've found several...what I call mini-tools...very effective in layering in character and drawing each (hero/heroine/villain and even secondary characters) more realistically. Of course, my agent may have another opinion when she reads the revisions, but I'm sure we'll both agree they are more "3-D" than they were before.

Since examples always help me when I'm trying to grasp a concept and apply it to my own work, I'm going to use them here. So I don't drone on and on, I will only use my heroine's examples, but if you like the demonstration and want to see how the technique works to create unique individuals, post your request in the comments section, and I'll work up my examples from my hero's character development as well.

Today: Part One--Internals

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know all about internals, you say. But bear with me here. It never hurts to go over a topic you're already familiar with and internals are the base element of Deepening Character with a Powerful Tri-fecta.

When I say internals, I don't mean 'What is she thinking?'. I mean, what's really going on inside her head? And how does it change, or does it, and why? What is she struggling with emotionally, logically? What external forces are in affect? What is her thought process when she's making a decision? How does she feel, physically?

Example 1: (Situation: Cassie (heroine) driving back to Baja, MX, to tie up loose ends after her mother's and stepbrother's deaths.)

Just seeing Sharpe, just looking into those eyes again.... The fine hairs on her arms prickled to attention. She shivered. Her fingers curled around the steering wheel, and she shook the image of his handsome face, chiseled and cold, from her mind. But the alternative thoughts of going home to confront her equally calculating and manipulative stepfather without the love of her mother or the support of her stepbrother did nothing to ease her mind.

Result: Identifying Cassie's struggles/conflicts and how they affect her both physically and emotionally. I'm now inside her head, her heart and her body as she contemplates her immediate future while comparing it to her past.


Example 2: As she rounded the trunk of her car, Cassie studied the accident scene, gauging the needs of others while weighing the risk to her own safety. But when it came to her duties as a physician, personal security issues came in second.

Result: Again cluing the reader in on her conflicts with the added benefit of showing what it is that's motivating her to make decisions--a big window into a person's character: why they do what they do.


Example 3: She was way out of her league here. Her throat ached. Her legs shook. To keep her focus, she mentally reviewed the contents of her bag for possible weapons: scalpel, scissors, needles, flashlight.

Result: The reader knows she's scared, they know she's strong and smart, they know she's not going to back down. They know all this because they know what she's thinking--she's thinking about weapons to protect herself. This also suggests something about her past and how it has shaped her into the person the reader is meeting here in chapter one.


Example 4: Shit, she shouldn't be in this truck. She would be trapped if--no. No. She couldn't think about that. Cassie bit her lip for damage control. She couldn't afford to lose her professional edge here and now. Concentrate, Dr. Christo.

Result: Deep third person gets the reader tangled in the character's psyche. They can understand the character's thought process, and, if we (us writers) are lucky, can even feel the character's emotions, enabling them to more fully understand who this person is, and connect with them as a result.


Example 5: She could have retreated now that medical personnel were on scene, but with others there she didn't feel the pressing need to flee. These women had been herded into the back of a truck like animals, and she was determined to get as much information about the situation as possible. She couldn't bring back the three that had died tonight, but she might be able to stop this particular smuggler from striking again.

Result: Shows conflict--her own safety vs. helping the women, getting information vs. risking her security. Shows her values--considering the needs of others first. And shows her motivation--putting an end to the smuggling, easing the pain of others. Considering the previous mini-flashbacks of a bad man in her past, I think there is sufficient intrigue created to push the reader forward to seek answers to that particular story question (among others).


I'll stop here for this week. These excerpts are all taken from the first scene of Safe in Enemy Arms. By the middle of chapter one, the reader will (hopefully) understand Cassie's personality while getting a glimpse of conflicts to come and her motivation to resolve those conflicts. I believe the reader will be well connected with her and already cheering her on.

Internals don't have to be direct thoughts to come through loud and clear. Showing the pattern of decision-making, showing emotion through body and mind, showing flashes of motivation will all go a long way toward deepening your character.

Next week: POV filters and combining them with internals.

Now we're cookin' with gas!


Blogger Paty Jager said...

Thanks Joan! As usual you get me thinking about my characters and writing.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Evanne said...

I love this stuff - your examples are sharp and motivating. Keep it coming!

10:55 AM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Cool. I had visions of everyone reading this, squinching their face, saying..."Huh?"

The POV filters and props are great, but the internals are the basis to make the others work, so I started there.

More next week. :-)

12:50 PM  

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