Do people (or animals) in books need to have character? You betcha.
In real life we often form opinions of people based on their character. Are they honest or do they lie? If they lie, are they white lies to keep from hurting someone’s feelings?
Jane turned in a circle before asking John, “What do you think of my new dress?”
Talk about a loaded question.
Without thinking it through first, John made a disastrous reply. “”It makes you look (too heavy), (too thin), (the color makes you look sickly).” Take your pick. Oh, and there’s always the infamous, “It makes your behind look too big.” He probably should have told a little white lie.
Of course, there are characters who lie for a good reason. Take a private investigator. They may lie to gain valuable information or to remove themselves from a less than happy situation.
In A Well-Kept Family Secret, Sandi Webster hides behind a truck with a camper so she can spy on someone. The truck owner sees her and they have a mini-confrontation. He wants to know why she’s hiding behind his truck. She tells him she’s admiring it, and he immediately starts to flirt with her. Okay, he came on to her, and he wasn’t a man you’d take home to mother.
“Aw, come on. You come for a ride with me and we’ll go have a picnic somewhere nice and quiet.” He was so close to my side that I could feel his breath on my ear. Ack! Along with the need for a bath, this guy needed to brush his teeth.
I backed away, right into the side of the truck. He leaned in and placed the palm of his hand by my shoulder.
I ducked under his other arm, which was about to effectively close me in, and headed for my car.
“Another time, pal. I’ve got to get going. My husband and seven kids will be waiting for me at home. Do you think a person could fit seven kids into this camper? They love picnics. In fact, Brutus, Jr. was the result of a picnic.”
“Seven kids?” His face registered horror. “Really?” He was backing away from me.
That might be a silly example, but sometimes you have to lie to help you out of a bad situation.
It’s not just about lies or honesty, though. Character is what you’re made of; your good and bad qualities, your eccentricities or unusual habits, or just the fact that you’re a hard worker or maybe you’re lazy. The list is long.
I’ve read books with characters who are one-dimensional and/or who are too perfect. In real life I don’t know anyone who’s perfect. If they act like they can do no wrong, I’ll probably keep my distance. If I like someone and enjoy their company, it includes their good points and their character flaws. I feel the same way about players in a book. If they seem too perfect, then I automatically mistrust them. Something is definitely wrong if they never make a mistake, never do something embarrassing, or never do something outrageous.
The key word there is “never”. Some people don’t make a lot of mistakes, but there’s always that one time. It makes them real to the reader.
A slip of the tongue can easily tell the reader about the player’s character.
And don’t forget mannerisms. A nervous person might fold and unfold a napkin while they speak, or systematically tear it into little pieces. He or she might tap their fingers on a desktop when they’re asked an uncomfortable question. Maybe they develop a tic in their eye.
All of these things create an imperfect character, which is actually one of the better people in a book. By better, I mean they’re more realistic.
There are too many characteristics to cover in a blog post, but this gives the general idea. I believe if someone looks for the perfect person, they’re not being realistic. I’d rather look for imperfections I can live with and accept, and that includes characters in books.
What are some of the characteristics that make up an individual that you find memorable? How about someone who snorts when they laugh? Maybe someone who would rather be the wallflower at an event? A sense of humor?
Until next time, pay attention to people and decide what you like about them in the way of mannerisms or personality. Don’t close them out because of some small personality flaw. Enjoy people for who and what they are.
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