Buried Emotions Create Strong Characters
By prying into our character’s buried feelings,
we not only get to know who they are, but why.
In the past, we’ve discussed deepening our characters by providing them with backgrounds. After all, none of us came to be out of nowhere. We have experiences that have shaped us and made us who we are today. Our characters should be no different. But, when looking for the key to strengthening them even further, why not consider not only their experiences, but the emotions these events would have triggered.
Ask yourself: did you character deal with these issues? Do they tend to react strongly with little provocation?
Maybe it’s not even the person they are currently interacting with that is truly to blame for a character’s reaction. As human beings, we are who we are because of not only experience, but emotion.
Emotion is energy, just as we project energy as living beings. In fact, any “matter” is energy and has the potential for great effect--positive and/or negative.
Delve into your character’s psyche to concrete who they truly are. Maybe they had a hard childhood where they were not allowed to express their emotions. They may not even be aware of they need to overcome this. Maybe they just never saw their parents cry, and in turn don’t show emotion themselves. They bury it and possible “explode” to an unrelated situation, or breakdown in private. These are all things you need to know to deepen your characters, and assign them believability. Whether or not everything comes out on the page is up to your discretion as the author, but as the creator of their world, you need to know them intimately.
By knowing your characters emotional make-up, you as the author will be able to convey them even stronger on the page. They will take on a breath of life through the words, thoughts and actions they expel.
Here’s a suggestion that you may have heard before: interview your characters. But, as a different twist on this, interview them with intimate questions that really tap into their mentality. Don’t just ask them why they are the profession they are, ask them what emotion led to their choice? When they decided to become a cop (just as an example), how did they feel? Was the decision one that met with apprehension inside--ask why? Did they have a sense of pride--ask why? Don’t just ‘scrape the surface’, pry beneath it. By taking our character analysis to this deeper level, you will not only know who your character is, but why there are who they are.