Wednesday, 14 January 2009

How do your characters cope?

There's a (semi) well-known saying about people. It is as follows:

You can tell a lot about a man by the way he handles three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

So what exactly does this mean and how can it help your shiny storytelling? Think about how your character copes with:

a) A rainy day - Is he the sort of person who wakes up in the morning, sees the rain and gets back into bed? Does he get out of bed, consider going out to meet that friend, then decide better of it? Does he bank on the rain stopping later and go out then? Does he grab an umbrella and brave the elements regardless? Does he realise he has no umbrella (wishes he did) but go out anyway? Does he call a friend to pick him up?

Basically, how does your character cope with a small annoyance that can disrupt the day if you let it?

b) Lost luggage - He's at the airport. All the luggage has come off and his isn't there? What does he do? Does he calmly find someone to ask? Does he march over there and yell at the poor girl behind the check-in desk, even though it's not her fault, declaring that if his case isn't there in 5 minutes then he's calling the cops? Does he panic like hell, jump up and down and cry until someone asks what's up? Let's hope not! Does he let the other family members sort it all out while he goes for a pint? Does he sit and wait for it to turn up on its own? Does he take matters into his own hands and 'die hard' his way through the airport until he finds the luggage?

How does your character cope with pressure? It's potentially catastrophic, but does he act logically, does he panic, get angry or just freeze? Does he know how to handle himself in a crisis?

c) Tangled Christmas tree lights - Every year the lights are tangled, but how does your character deal with it? Does he stand there patiently, slowly unwinding the lights in a logical manner until the job is done? Does he start off slow and logical, but then end up pulling and ripping them free? Does he attack them completely, screaming things like "Come on you motherf*cker, untangle or I'm going to rip your f*cking..." You get the idea. Does he call up the stairs and get someone else to do it for him?

How does your character deal with an inevitable, really frustrating situation, that can be solved if you stay calm and logical?

This process is a very thorough way of finding your characters. Think about how every character will cope with the above situations and you'll find a lot out about them. Also ask yourself these questions, because it can be rather insightful.

Happy character-ing.

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