Kari started this yesterday. I teased her that I was going to post today about naming characters, but she beat me to it. Yet, I'm not sure our conversation has finished. There is something very personal in a character's name. Something that ties you to the image of the people you create. What do they look like? How do they talk? What makes them "real?" How do your characters differentiate themselves from each other?
In the manuscript I am now finishing (yeah!), I have characters from Italy, New England and Texas. They talk differently, have different mannerisms, and certainly have different approaches to the world they live in. But how do you do that? How do you make each one unique and believable? A name is important, for sure. Yet, there is so much more to who these beings become.
For example, my Italian macho hero has a former life in special ops. He's the silent tough guy with a heart. Yes, I know that is a stereotype, but that's who he is. One of his counter parts is also former special ops, but he's a bit of a dandy. What mechanisms can be used to show the difference between these two men without my saying what I just did?
My macho tough guy (who is very intelligent and contemplative, not in the religious sense but in the thinking-things-through sense) worries. He worries about details and about the safety of my heroine. While, my dandy special ops guy worries about the creases in his pants, about the cuff of his shirt being just right, about what people around him are thinking of him.
When you read my story, you need to see these differences. Two extremely talented men with different views of the world. I want it to become apparent, yet never spell it out.
As for my wonderful protagonist (I have spent lots of time with her and now consider her a member of my family), is a bit of a challenge. Her early life wasn't easy. So, how do I show that so when you read the paragraphs you figure it out for yourself? I have one scene in which she is kicking an empty soda can down the street, remembering what it was like to do that as a child when no one knew where she was, or cared.
These are small examples. As we write we build on the picture we want our readers to take away. In editing, I have become more and more aware that to paint the images we want to portray takes a subtle touch.
Thinking about characterization is what started this. How do I help you, as my reader, understand who I am attempting to describe, perform before you, work through problems, and I'm afraid-- also suffer. This I worry about. My characters are my puppets, but as I spend hours with them, they are also my friends.
I'd love to hear how you, dear writers, pull this off. At 3 am today I was up and trying to yet again "fix" that scene which would make my characters jump off the page. There are times I think I should set an extra place at the table. They have moved in!