Beginning at the beginning in character development means a physical description. I like to start with the Protagonist, quite likely the most important person in the story, and then move on to the antagonist. Following these two characters with the rest of the cast in order of importance is very helpful when visualizing how they will interact in the execution of the plotline (plot is a completely different conversation, which we can discuss at a later date).
As important as each character’s degree of beauty is how that character will react to others in the story. If the protagonist and antagonist are a couple is it important which is taller and by how much. For example, if the female is the antagonist perhaps it is beneficial that she tower over her mate both physically and emotionally. Conversely, if she is the weaker of the two she could be diminutive and frail in all senses.
The same consideration of interaction, as explained in the previous paragraph, can apply to many, if not all, physical as well as evolutionary characteristics. Strong, self assured, characters can have gone to good schools, had loving parents, learned their lessons well, and can be well spoken and even avoid regional accents and dialects. Weak or despicable characters can have had the opposite experience, which could result in a completely different view of everything that surrounds the characters.
Weak characters may maintain the continual use of profanity as an important element in their vocabulary. Strong, well educated, characters can avoid profanity or in certain circumstances use it to make a point. If the author only allows this character to use a particular expression or word once, in the making of a point, it seems more like a mistake. Should we choose to use this tool it is important to establish a pattern of use, which will provide the reader a certainty of purpose.
In “The Great Gatsby” F. Scott Fitzgerald allowed Gatsby to use “old sport” so much that even Nick Carraway grew weary of its use. This was part of Fitzgerald’s characterization of Gatsby as a man who needed an anchor to a superfluous life. Like the planned creation of his history and surroundings, Gatsby used this expression to camouflage certain other longings and the heartache that haunted the character since childhood.
How characters look is not necessarily the author’s decision. Often they are a product of their purpose and everything about them is created to enable them to serve their function. Love them or hate them, they all have their place.
Stay tuned for my next entry.
Your comments and questions are always welcome.
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