Dramaquill's All Things Writing

February 5, 2008

Howdy y’all – Developing a character

I’s a takin’ a break from writin’ a hillbilly play fer our drama class.  Ifn I’s a talkin’ funny, it’s a cuz I’s bin a writin’ in hillbilly speak fer daze an’ daze.

All kidding aside, using a dialect can add a whole new flavor to a character but writing it can be a tough job.  I spent a lot of time researching hillbilly expressions, names, activities and anything else I could find before tackling this type of character.

But, due to the success of last year’s hillbilly play, and the way the class responds to the silly humor and antics of hillbillies, it was time to write a sequel of sorts. 

As a reader, I’m not always excited to read a character who speaks with some unique dialect.  I can imagine that I’m not the only one who finds this type of read slower than if the character didn’t speak in such a way.

The neat part about writing a play that utilizes characters who speak in dialect is that it’s not a “sit-down” read at all.  Yes, I have to read through the dialogue to make sure the characters have their own personalities and of course when I’m checking for typos etc.  But the fun part is listening to the students as they begin to master the hillbilly dialect.  And of course, the finished product is always a crowd pleaser once the audience gets to come and watch.

So how do you feel about dialects as a writer?  Ever try a character like that?

How about as a reader?  Do you prefer to read straight English without the flavor of dialect?

No matter what you do as a writer, just remember that in order to create believable, 3 dimensional characters, they must possess qualities that remind the reader of real people.  Whether it’s an expression they use, or mannerisms they possess, or a personality trait that always seems to get them in trouble, make sure your characters come alive on the page.

Advertisements

November 9, 2007

Another way to get unstuck

Working on a full length novel can seem like a daunting project, especially when the creativity train stalls on the track mid point.  If you’re like me, it’s time to get away from the computer (or notebook, which I still prefer because when I write by hand my brain and my handwriting speed are usually about the same) and get some perspective.

Sometimes I walk away to get away from the story, the characters and the plot.  But avoidance has never been my favorite tactic when stuck on any task. 

Because I have a background in theatre and music, I have enjoyed performing in numerous plays and musicals and find that the most fun for me, even when singing a song, is asking myself “who is this character”?  What’s she like?  Why is she saying this?  How does she feel at the moment?

So I tried it with my Nanowrimo book and guess what?  Charlotte, my main character, had lots to say to me and through me.  Yesterday 3000 words poured out because I put myself in her shoes.  It wasn’t something I’d call fun, because Charlotte’s character faces challenges and events that are somewhat unnerving.  But I found my connection to her – the connection that made me want to go on.

In my suspense thriller novel that I’m revising, I had to figure out my villain.  My mentor, Marilyn Henderson http://www.mysterymentor.com/ said that my villain needed to be more nasty.

Now, because I’m not a stalker, I’m not crazy (at least I don’t think so) and I’m not a man, writing him was already presenting its share of challenges.  But back to my first way to get unstuck:  WHAT IF?

What if I was this person?  What would motivate me to act and what would the result be?  So, not one to shy away from a challenge, I jumped into his mind, body and soul with both feet.  I don’t know if I should be happy or worried telling you that he is now far scarier than ever before and a whole new, demented side of his personality has shown up. 

But shaking off the characters can be a difficult thing to do.  Sometimes my heroine gets inside my head and she won’t leave me alone until I address something in the book.  I’m a little better keeping my villain at bay until I’m ready for him, but once I get inside either of them, new plot twists and ideas seem to run rampant at times.

So even if you don’t have a theatrical background, try living in the shoes of one of your characters for 24 hours and see where it takes your writing.  It may surprise you.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.