About Characters

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* About Characters
* Writing Again, A Little
* Of Interest

Quote of the Day

“Nobody has pronouns. You can’t ‘have’ a pronoun anymore than you can have a preposition or an adverb. The concept doesn’t make any sense. Pronouns are not things you can own. They aren’t pets or accessories. They are parts of speech. That’s it. You don’t get to customize them.” Matt Walsh

Thanks to Robert J. Sadler for the tip.

Note: Because I’m always looking for more sources of information, I looked up Matt Walsh’s blog. I do not endorse any kind of extremism. I believe one person’s rights stop where another person’s rights begin, and that nobody—not the religious or otherwise radical political right, not any race-based hate groups, and not the radical political socialist left—has the right to tell anybody else how to live his or her life, how to think or speak, what to watch or read, whom to care about or not care about, etc. Life is difficult enough without slinging unnecessary, control-freak rules all over the place. Let’s all just get on with it.

About Characters

Characters are only typical human beings. When you first meet them (just like in real life) you form a stereotypical opinion of them. If you catch only a glimpse of each other and then go your separate ways, you’re left with (and the character remains) only a stereotype. (As with secondary characters.)

As you get to know a human being or a character better, you discover more and more layers, traits that are unique to that character, and the person becomes much more than a stereotype (well-rounded main character).

Those are the bottom-line basics.

In today’s “Of Interest” Sue Coletta talks about characters having ring tones for their phones, and the ring tones say something about the character’s personality or what they’re going through at the moment, etc.

The ring tone might also be a good way to misdirect others’ opinions of the character. “Daydream Believer” by the Monkees on a hitman’s phone. Of course, such a misdirection would have to combine other elements with the ringtone since the ringtone typically lasts only a few seconds.

Anyway, the article spurs thought and is an excellent chance to broaden your craft. I hope you’ll read it.

I noted that giving a character a particular ring tone is also an excellent way to focus down on the character and the scene and pull the reader more deeply into the story.

A ringtone might also be a good way to enhance the purpose of secondary characters, who often show up in fiction only to foreshadow some future event.

A long while back I wrote a post on dialogue, with at least one of the points being that the dialogue of secondary characters is almost always memorable. Why? Again, because they are so often used to foreshadow a future event.

So you want the reader to remember the secondary character’s dialogue, something about his or her appearance and personality, etc.

And today, in another venue, I read ongoing comments, some whining, some staunch, and none at the time in the middle, about characters (people) with infirmities and disabilities and who owes them what and how much, etc.

With my personality, frankly I wondered whether those who complain can ever be comforted (or paid) enough to get them to just shut up. My thesis is—well, no. You’ll see my thesis and my abstract below.

I finally left a comment, and then it dawned on me that my comment might be of value to those who want to learn about characters. A great cast of characters, scattered over all your stories and novels, should include a broad-span view of humanity, after all. Here’s my comment:

News flash—Nobody has a monopoly on problems, pain or disabilities. Physical bodies endure tragedies of various sizes and kinds. It’s called Life. Accept it and move on.

1. Every human being has problems and is disabled in one way or another. The biggest difference among them is how much and how loudly they complain.

2. In our current everything-is-everybody-else’s-fault society, those who complain get poor-baby points for volume.

3. Those who don’t complain are assumed to be problem-free and painless. They are also accused—primarily by those who make all the noise and secondarily by those whose look-at-me pretense of the week is appearing to care about those who make the noise—of being uncaring.

4. Most human beings are so tightly focused on their own problems and disability(ies) that it never occurs to them that others who are not in their particular group are similarly afflicted. Nor, once they learn that reality, do they care.

There is a certain dignity in owning one’s afflictions and abiding them in silence.

* * *

Now, the question isn’t whether you agree with me or think I’m a monster. The question is, do you see these folks among you characters?

Do you have a character who believes a paper cut stretches the limits of human endurance, another who never complains that his lungs are on fire and does his best to cough and spit-up in private, and everything in between?

Have you ever had a character who is missing a foot or some fingers from one hand? A character who has only one good eye or a bad speech impediment or even a different history than his current life would make you expect? (As he lay dying from a gunshot wound to the chest one of my Texas Rangers divulged that he was once a would-be bank robber, but was arrested during the drunken attempt and escaped jail afterward.)

Let your characters be afflicted. After all, “Physical bodies endure tragedies of various sizes and kinds. It’s called Life.” Then let them handle it, or not, according to their personality.

Maybe they whine for attention. Maybe they suffer in silence. Maybe they become known as a grouch because although they don’t complain about their afflictions, they do hold forth on other aspects of life they consider problems.

It truly does take all kinds, and we human beings certainly have them. I for one believe that’s why no superior form of life has tried to make any meaningful contact. I know I certainly wouldn’t.

Writing Again, A Little

Yesterday I was able to spend a little time with a new character named Hortencia Alvarez. She seems a tough, contentious woman. No idea where the story came from.

I just saw her sitting on a rock, dangling her bare feet into a stream. In her left hand was a black, fine-grained whetstone, in her right a knife with a long, sturdy, very sharp blade. Beyond her, a group of other characters, mostly men, on their way to some objective.

We’ll see where this goes. I’m not even sure what time period it’s from, but I don’t think it’s part of Wes’ story.

As an aside, only yesterday or the day before I told a young writer that no, I never write two stories at one time. Mea culpa, I suppose.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “What Do Ringtones Say About Your Characters?” at https://killzoneblog.com/2023/02/what-do-ringtones-say-about-your-characters.html.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1200 words

Writing of “Hortencia Alvarez” (shrug—I dunno)

Day 1…… 1089 words. Total words to date…… 1089

Writing of Wes Crowley: Deputy US Marshal 2 (WCG9SF4)

Day 1…… 3231 words. Total words to date…… 3231
Day 2…… 2990 words. Total words to date…… 6221
Day 3…… 1805 words. Total words to date…… 8026
Day 4…… 2025 words. Total words to date…… 10051

Total fiction words for February……… 1089
Total fiction words for 2023………… 47962
Total nonfiction words for February… 5620
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 25970
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 73932

Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 72
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer because of my zen-like non-process. If you want to learn it too, either hang around or download my Journal Archives at https://hestanbrough.com/the-daily-journal-archives/, read them, and try WITD for yourself.

2 thoughts on “About Characters”

  1. Hi!
    This ringtone thing is something I wasn’t aware of. I will use it in my next story. Thanks for letting me know.
    There are many ways to introduce a character, and how a POV sees others also tell a lot about him/her. I only use a fragments of what is possible, and this ringtone thing proves it.

    • Hi Balázs. Yes, it’s always good to drill down and focus down on a few particulars about the character and even about the setting. It makes everything seem more real.

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