I'm currently editing Hail Frost right now, which is turning out to be a lot more fun than I expected. Editing gives me the chance to seriously think about the characters and the plot without actually "writing". There is writing involved of course, but I just don't feel the intense urgency I experience when writing the first draft.
One of the aspects of characterization I have been considering is what makes a character "feel" like him or herself. It's an odd concept so allow me to try to explain it.
I'm always "me" because I'm a fairly confident person and I try not to make it a habit to change my behavior and characteristics depending on the circumstance. But there are times when I feel more "me" than other times. For example, I feel more like "me", more complete, when I am sitting in front of my computer writing. I also feel more like "me" when I am wearing my glasses and dressed in certain outfits. I feel like "me" when I step into Barnes and Noble, when I load a shotgun on a skeet field, when I read my Bible during quiet time, or when I curl up in my pajamas and watch Doctor Who. For some reason, these circumstances make me feel more relaxed and comfortable. More safe. Like it's suddenly okay to really be me and I don't have to worry about anything or anyone.
I don't know why this happens, but I think it happens to everyone. My brother seems more relaxed and comfortable when he is talking about techie stuff; a calm, peaceful look passes through my sister's face when she is drawing. I have friends who seem more like themselves when they are talking about their favorite activities: Tae Kwon Do, basketball, cartooning, design, or logic. It's a fascinating aspect of humanity to me.
Everyone wears masks. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. If something really irritates you in public, it's polite not to let your frustration and anger show- at least not to the extent you might be feeling it. There are also cruel people in the world. If we don't wear the mask, we risk ridicule and bullying from people who don't even matter. Sometimes, it's just easier. And that's okay.
Characters are reflections of humanity. A good character needs to seem human to the readers. So at times, the character will don a mask and play a part. But readers read to escape the masks and confusion of reality. So I also need to show the characters without the mask; simply being them. Sometimes this happens through high emotional stress- a tenuous situation can bring out the best or worst in a real person and so it is with characters. But I also like to just think about the places, things, or people that would make my characters feel like truly being "them".
|Jamie Dornan looks like Valin|
Valin, the antagonist of Hail Frost, is the one who actually caused me to start thinking about this. He is forced, by his own lust for power and by outside people, to become the ruler of the Pull. He plays the part well, but it's all a mask. He is uncomfortable in fine clothes and castles and civility. He's still bad and he's still threatening in those situations, but he hides behind a mask of cool politeness and lawful justice. He seemed to stay that way through the entire book, and while editing, I decided I wanted his true self to really appear. I want the readers to see who the Leverage are up against.
I invented an emotionally fueled problem to help bring out his true self. (I would tell y'all about it...but... *queue River Song* "Spoilers!") However, I also thought about what situations and places would make him be more himself. Valin is a rugged explorer. He loves the wildness and adventure found in nature. He seems happier and more comfortable when he is in the brutal terrain where there are no laws but his own strength. He also likes commanding soldiers. While Sicreet was a Lord, Valin is a Commander. The power makes him happy. I've found that a happy villain is never a good sign for my long-suffering heroes, which makes it all the more necessary to write.
So what about y'all? What makes you, or your characters, seem more like themselves? If you have anything to add, I'd love to hear it! :)