Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Characters You Can Pinch - Part 4

Repetition of Character Attributes

Okay, so you have a main character who is tall with a large chest.  You pointed this out in a creative way in the first chapter.  Now, he's been moving in and out of scenes for the last hundred pages, but you've never brought these physical attributes up again.

Maybe you're of the mindset that to repeat it would be, well, repetition.  WRONG.

I got this terrific advice from a book on the craft of writing.  Your reader isn't going to remember that your character is a large build on page 100 when it hasn't been mentioned or hasn't affected him in the last 99 pages.

This brings up another interesting aspect when it comes to our character's physical attributes - show how they affect them.  Reference them periodically.  Sprinkle them in.

Building on the example of a tall character who has a large chest:
   Maybe he has to duck to get into a small space.
   Maybe females have to arch their heads back to look up at him.
   Or maybe his female companion needs to stand on her tip-toes to reach reach his lips for a kiss.
   Maybe other men back away from a fight with him because of his size.

You probably see where I'm going with this.  Make your characters breathe air like you do.

I put this element into application when I edited my first mystery.  The Chief of Police is a tall man.  Now instead of simply saying here and there, he's tall (again boring), make what you say apply to the setting.

The below is an example pulled from one of my novels.  Please note, names have been changed as this current novel is on submission:
Angela turned to see Chief Pedden approaching.  His large stride would equal two for the average person.  He came with Sergeant Thompson by his side.  Thompson was dwarfed by the Chief’s height.  
Be creative, and don't fear repetition.
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Next post:  Characters You Can Pinch - Part 5Creating Realistic Characters:  Add complications