Confusing Characters

Last Monday I blogged about characterization and about how we can alter a character's persona by choosing his personality traits.

The comment left by Teresa at Journaling Woman inspired today's writing post about character interaction so, "Thanks, Teresa!"

All of your characters have distinct personalities and their own agendas. Right? Right. If not, go fix it and come back when you're done.

Moving along . . . each character is going to react in a different way to everything that occurs to them in the story. Some reactions may be similar; but for the sake of dramatic tension, not many should be.

For example, your ladies are at lunch. Any ladies, from hookers to mommies to business women to students to Red Hatters. Or a mix of that.

Anyway, the server trips over a dropped napkin and food and drink go flying. No one at the table is spared. One may be angry, one amused. One charmed by the server, one irritated or even offended. And more. The possibilities are endless.

You can take this another step down the path by having reactions to the initial reactions. This would then create a new action for other characters to react to.

Confused yet?

Don't be.

Give it a try and you'll see how it works.

What are you waiting for?


Talei said…
Carol, this is a great tip and exercise! Thanks for sharing!
Great post! If anyone needs to follow me for a day for character responses to various events--I understand.

It is so interesting how one day we might not respond angrily to someone tipping a drink but another day we might go balistic depending on how our day has gone.

We are complicated beings. Our characters should be too.

Great tips! I guest blogged about something similar today.
Joanne said…
I like this idea of bringing everyone together in the very same scene, and looking at all the different reactions to an event. Having them all together works to really highlight their differences and define their personalities.
Aubrie said…
Excellent post! You can tell a lot about a person by how they react to the unexpected.
Carol Kilgore said…
Talei - You're welcome. Have fun with it.

Teresa - Exactly so about our characters need to be complicated.

Christine - I'll go check it out in a bit.

Joanne - They can all be together or you can show them in smaller groups or singly, as long as each experiences the same thing.

Aubrie - I totally agree. And the same should hold true for our characters.
Stephen Tremp said…
I'll try this little exercise this morning. Thanks. Always looking to expand my writing talents and learn something new.

Stephen Tremp
Holly Ruggiero said…
This is a great idea. You can really hone your characters and their motives through this simple exercise.
Carol Kilgore said…
Stephen - I hope it works for you!

Holly - That's the idea. It's all about knowing who your characters really are.
VR Barkowski said…
Absolutely! You can tell oodles from how folks react to the unexpected. Great exercise!
Carol Kilgore said…
VR - Some of them might even surprise us.

Arlee - Yup :)
Elle Strauss said…
Yes, it's really important to make your characters different from each other, and especially important that your characters are different from you, the writer.
This is exactly what I do - let each character react in their own way. It's the one way to make each of them sing their own song and not mine. Or at least...that's the plan.
Then the readers learn so much about the characters from their reactions! It's a great show-don't-tell technique. :) Thanks for the post, Carol.
What a great example, Carol. My sister and I were at a restaurant where the waiter spilled an entire glass ice tea at a table where four women were seated. Their reactions were all different as well as the responses from people at the tables near them. It was a fun character study.
Carol Kilgore said…
Elle - Some of my characters are more like me than others. And it always amazes me which ones.

Alex - You have a good mind :)

Elspeth - So true about the plan.

Elizabeth - You're welcome.

Jane - So you've experienced this first hand. Cool!
RaShelle said…
Hi Carol - Going to spill the drink on my characters now! Heh heh. I'll let you know how it goes. =D
Wow, there's great advice all over the place today! Thanks for this, I needed it.
Carol Kilgore said…
RaShelle - Have fun...take a towel :)

Words Crafter - No problem.
Hannah Kincade said…
I love your example of the server. I would be amused but I know other who would be irritated or angry about it. I will put this into action!
Carol Kilgore said…
Same here, Hannah. My friends come in all shapes, sizes, and attitudes.
Hart Johnson said…
I think that's an excellent test to see if your characters are really fully distinct! I love the idea of submitting them to a group experience and examining how each sees it or responds-- I tried it with my cozy, and other than my MC and her boyfriend, most are different, and that MC being 'too like' her boyfriend has always had plans for the relationship arc.
kimberlyloomis said…
Very fun exercise and tip. Love the example you used, too! I'm thinking a mix of all the types you mentioned would be hilarious. :)
Carol Kilgore said…
Hart - As long as there's a plan in place, I think that works.

Kimberly - I think both of us have a warped sense of humor - LOL.