Monday, April 1, 2013

THE CRUELEST THING - CHARACTER BUILDING (HOLLY SCHINLDER)

I'll admit, I've been pretty cruel to my characters in the past.  I gave Aura, the MC of my debut YA, a schizophrenic mother (who is, as the book opens, in the midst of a downward spiral into the darkness of her illness), and I gave Chelsea, the MC of my second YA, a horrific injury that put a screeching halt to her basketball career. 

...But in putting together a post for a blogger (Me, My Shelf, and I) who's running a 25-Things-You-Don't-Know-About-Me series, I was suddenly struck by the idea that maybe, we build our characters through unique quirks and traits as much as we build them through the events of a book. 

Here's my own list of 25-Things-Few-Know-About-Me:


1. My first concert was Kiss.  I’m firmly convinced this is the reason behind my deep wish that all author events could have more pyro.

2. I have a dog named Jake who likes to talk on the phone.  (I’m pretty sure he gets more calls than I do.)

3. I have never pierced my ears—and thanks to the kind words of a boy I knew in high school, I never will.

4. In the hopes that I could guilt my mom into buying me contacts, I once bought the UGLIEST pair of glasses I could find (this was in the ‘80s, mind you, at the height of ugly glasses).  Didn’t work—as my horrific seventh grade picture reveals…and will continue to reveal, for all eternity.

5. I change my hairdos like I change my socks.

6. I drafted my earliest manuscripts on a pre-Internet dinosaur of a computer from the Paleolithic Era.

7. Funky vintage costume jewelry?  Yes, please.

8. Given the choice between writing and eating cheesecake, I’ll pick writing.  (Anyone who understands my fanatical love of cheesecake understands the seriousness of this declaration.)

9. I truly wish Sally Hansen would make a manicure-friendly keyboard.

10. I swear you’ll never see skies prettier than the ones I see through my window every day in the Ozarks.

11. I “work” on manuscripts while taking walks.

12. I once got lost in a wooded area while filming a book trailer.

13. My mom is my first reader, sounding board, and official book titler.

14. I’ve been drinking coffee since my pre-preschool days.  Not a typo.

15. I type really fast.  Think “Flight of the Bumblebee” on a keyboard.

16. I once worked as a model.  Favorite gig?  Modeling fresh flowers.

17. I have double-joined elbows.

18. My debut YA novel, A BLUE SO DARK, features poetry I wrote as a teen, tweaked to fit the events of the book.

19. My handwriting is so bad, my family often calls from the store to ask me to translate my entries on the grocery list.

20. I blame the choice of many former boyfriends on my 20/700 vision.

21. I dig people who treat their pets like royalty.

22. My favorite place to write is on my back deck, barefoot, with my dog and a glass of sweet tea.

23. I love the smell of hyacinths.

24. I adored the hair bands as a teen—and still have the motorcycle jacket to prove it.

25. I believe laughing is the most important activity of every day.

 
I think this list starts to paint a pretty vivid picture...

What do you think?  What's most important: revealing our characters through the events of the book, or through their idiosyncrasies?  Or do they share equal importance?

6 comments:

  1. Love this list...It creates such a cool, interesting picture

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  2. I love your list! To answer your question, I think the events of the book and character idiosyncrasies share equal importance in revealing character.

    I don't have any daughters and many of my friends are too busy with their own lives so I never get to go shopping WITH anybody and I've always regretted this. I began taking my characters shopping. I know, I know! It sounds ridiculous. But it's fun! I meander through a mall when I'm writing a teen girl with more fashion sense than budget. I dash through it when writing a teen boy who 'has to' buy a gift and would rather just stuff money in a card.

    I've imagined how each character would react to long lines, snarky cashiers, and even the perfume sprayers. I love figuring out which displays would catch their eyes, stop them in their tracks.

    The mall is the story, how they react to it -- their idiosyncrasies.

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  3. Equal importance. The characters' quirks and idiosyncrasies determine their reactions to events in the story and thus move the plot forward. Fabulous list, btw!

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  4. My favorite thing about character building is coming up with their little quirks! And I love what you shared about you, especially that you tweaked your teenage poetry and can I come write on your deck, too, please? It sounds lovely!

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