Channeling Your Characters
Good characterization is all about channeling your characters.
Why channel your characters? Because :
• it eliminates two-dimensional characters
• it uncovers motivation for the characters
• motivation leads to writing scenes based on those character motivations
• it provides deep point of view (POV)
By doing the above you take your characters to a level of connection with the reader. At this level the reader bonds with your character and cares about your character or, in the case of a villain; they are interested enough to keep reading in order to find out what happens.
Simply put, if you want the reader to invest in your characters you must elicit emotion by creating believable characters. That investment is not made simply telling them who a character is, but showing them.
Once the reader knows the character then they will also know how a character will act or react. At this point you have a responsibility as a writer. The reader now expects that the motivations of the character will be unique and consistent to the character you have created.
Channeling is simply an exercise in visualization. You become the character.
I utilize this technique often when I am not sure where to take a scene or if I do not actually know for certain what the character's exact response should be in a situation or if I have written a draft of the scene and am ready to proof the emotions and layer more in. It can also help when you are stuck, as it allows your characters to ORGANICALLY show you what needs to happen next, as opposed to you the writer pushing them around on a stage which ends up being two-dimensional.
Back to channeling. This requires a no interruptions, and a quiet environment.
Run through the scene in your head with your eyes closed and/or by reading the scene aloud like a script. Acting out the scene may also be beneficial.
My character is a divorced thirty-something woman who has ex-husband issues, family issues and lack of viable sperm issues.
I begin channeling Sophie by closing my eyes and crossing my arms across my chest. She's tense, and frustrated. I try to feel these emotions. My jaw clenches and my back becomes rigid as I get into Sophie and think about the issues she is dealing with right now. I begin talking aloud as though I am Sophie, simply stream of consciousness rambling.
" Am I asking for too much? All I want is normal. All I have ever wanted is normal. Instead I have a mother who refuses to marry my uncle and give up her crown of widowhood and a goth-chick little sister with a Peter Pan complex. Dear Lord. " I sigh loudly as I know Sophie would. "And what am I going to do about JACK? I can't save everyone."
So far in the scene, after an interaction with the hero Jack, the door bell rings, and now I realize exactly who should be at the door as I channel Sophie's inner angst.
She peeked out the peep hole, then hung her head and tried not to sob.
First Homeland Security. Now this.
Alan Winston James II
In fact, never, would be good. But definitely not today.
Generally Sophie refrained from even using his name. But it was hard to ignore her ex husband when she was looking up his deviated septum. She hadn’t seen the man since their day in divorce court. Today, of all days, he had to turn up on her doorstep?
Her life wasn’t screwed up enough? She raised her hands skyward. “Why God? Why?”
The buzzer rang again, this time with more insistence.
Sophie swung open the door. “Al? Something I can help you with?”
Alan cringed. He loathed nicknames. “You haven’t returned my calls.”
“I never return your calls.”
He adjusted his silk paisley tie, seemingly at a loss for words.
She beat a staccato rhythm with her sandaled foot on the tiled floor of the entry way. “What do you want?”
“Aren’t you going to invite me in?"
Deep POV and Characterization
Deep POV can also be thought of as is a dimension of channeling to create intimacy between the characters and the readers. It involves using the sensory realm as you channel. A word of caution from the gypsy: do not feel obligated to use all five senses all at once. Use the senses that are naturally dominant in that particular deep POV scene.
No one writes deep POV better than the author who coined the term, Suzanne Brockmann. In an interview on Writer Write, she explains deep POV.
"Deep Point of View was a phrase that I came up with when I was trying to explain my writing style. Point of view can be subjective (picture a hand-held camera on top of a character's head) or objective (picture something like a security camera, bolted into place in the corner of a room). In my books, I use subjective point of view, but I'm not satisfied with merely showing the reader what that camera sees from its perch atop a character's head. I bring the camera down, inside of that character's head, so we see the world through that character's eyes. We hear things through his ears. We smell what he smells, feel what he feels, think what he think. With deep POV, I write using words that that character would use. I tell the story with that character's voice. "
Characterization tips from some other experts
1. A practical guide is Linda Seger's Creating Unforgettable Characters.
"Characters need to be consistent. This does not mean that they are predictable or stereotypical. It means that characters, like people, have a kind of core personality that defines who they are and gives us expectations about how they will act. If characters deviate from this core, they may come across as incredible, as not making sense or adding up."
2. The classic for writers: Fiction is Folks, by Robert Newton Peck.
" We writers fall into the N.D. (narrative drag) whenever we rip the camera out of the hero's head, demanding that we, not he, tell the story to a reader."
3. The definitive word by Dwight V. Swain, Creating Characters: How to Build Story People
"Specifically, in the act of thinking through a story, the writer temporarily suspends his own standards and adopts those of someone else. That's what a writer does when he creates a character. Because he's in the character creating business, he must learn to put his own beliefs and attitudes in limbo temporarily and adopt those of someone else: the person about whom he's writing, the character he's creating."
4. From GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon
"Keep in mind that the reader is supposed to identify and empathize with your character from the moment the character makes an entrance."
Now go forth and channel!