Monday, June 6, 2011

Character Emotions

I thought I'd do today's blog on character emotions. It seems that everyone is affected by emotions from time to time, so I don't want my characters to be so flat that they don't have emotions and always seem to act rationally. For one thing, teens don't act rationally at all. Let's be honest - irrationality sells.

So, what do my characters need to be emotional characters?

Secrets - Well, doesn't everyone have secrets? Even small secrets are good, but secrets nonetheless are great at propelling a plot as well as a character. They may decide to make certain decisions or take risky actions as a means to keep that secret hidden.

Contradictions - People do this all the time, they say they want one thing and do something different entirely. I know I have done this in the past. When I catch myself I try to figure out why I did what I did. Yet, as a teenager I don't think I ever really thought about it at all. I mean I might have thought someone was stupid for doing something and then turned around and did something just as stupid. I have one character that I'm working on writing the rough draft on her story and she's perfect for the walking-talking contradiction. I even can't wait to focus on all of her contradictions.

Desires, Needs, Ambition, Goal - These propel anyone down a path. We'll try to get to where we want by the means of the quickest and least difficult path we can. Yet, somehow it's not always as straight forward as we see it. Maybe someone else has contradicting goals and they intersect somehow with another characters. In fact, in my current manuscript I'm editing I have this happen. One character's goals infringe on another characters goals and desires, causing a spiraling out of control effect for my main character. It also creates a great obstacle for her to overcome.      

Vulnerability - Everyone is vulnerable at some point in their life to someone or something. As a writer I need to know exactly what those vulnerabilities are for each and every character I create. Some will be blindsided by an intrusion of sorts and others will see that vulnerability and use it to their advantage. It's human nature. I see it happen around me all of the time, especially in teenagers. They have a tendency to take advantage of each other as a means to get what they want.

Fears - Everyone has a fear, some small and some big. One thing I found when I was working on my character interrogation sheets was that I had to figure out what would turn each character's life upside down, what they feared. This, of course, helped me to create a new depth to each of the characters that even I had previously not seen. Some characters blindsided me with their depth. It definitetly helps to look at the fears of characters.

Emotional Triggers - Well, something has to trigger characters to do things. I mean think about it, how many of you have seen something on the news or seen something happen in front of you that triggered an emotion inside of you? Well, my characters are supposed to be real to the readers and myself. Therefore, they need to be triggered by the same things. I found one of my characters to be particularly flat. She just followed another character around and mimicked her. I put a huge end to this when I worked on her character interrogation. As I filled in her sheet I realized that she has her own differing thoughts than her friend. She has very different emotions and in the end she will be pivotal to the second and third installments of my series. These triggers have created a more rounded and real character of her.

Your Turn -> How do you handle your characters emotions?

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