Monday, December 15, 2008

Creature Comforts

I'm a creature, and I like to be comfortable.

Comfort comes in all shapes and sizes, just like your characters. Think about these little things to give them an extra layer.

I'll use myself as an example.

I hate being sticky. Hate, hate, hate it. I don't care if it's a drop of honey or a blob of jelly or sap from those pesky weeds that pop up like, well, weeds. I have to get it right off.

I don't like the process of getting dirty. I don't mind being dirty after it's apparent it's happening with or without my consent, but I'll go the long way around to keep that first speck of dirt from clinging to my body. Once it's there, I'm down and dirty with the best of 'em.

I hate when I burn my tongue, not only because it leaves those little bumps and nothing tastes the same for a day or so, but also because it makes me feel stupid for doing such a dumb thing. I burn my tongue more often than I should, too, by the way!

I love being outside in the rain - as long as there's no thunder and lightning - and getting drenched. I love even better coming inside, drying off and putting on dry clothes. I love the way it makes me feel - invigorated and cozy at the same time.

I love curling up with a book in a big chair.

I love the first night on clean sheets.

What are some of the little things you love and hate? It's a start for thinking about your characters.

Think about the little things those people you create love and hate. How they get comfy. One little detail might change the direction of your story.

5 comments:

Jan Christensen said...

Good advice! I think that's one reason so much time is spent in so many books about what the characters are eating. One loves fast food. Another only craves Chinese, another French wine or a certain kind of beer. Frankly, that has begun to wear a bit thin for me. I prefer using what you suggest--little quirks. But can't leave out food entirely! They gotta eat.

Mark said...

Too often, though, the writer will put their own loves and hates on a character and it comes off as false or superficial. The character is not a real person but a paper doll with the author's preferences hung on him/her. I often take things I like and make my characters hate them. Example, I'm a cat owner, so my main character is allergic to them and hates them. I like sushi, so my main character finds it disgusting. When you twist those likes and dislikes around you sometimes get a deeper insight into your characters and can make them real.

Carol Kilgore said...

Jan-
Food does do a lot to personalize a character. But little quirks, like food, can grow. Someone who loves French wine could obsess over having a particular vintage, and it could drive her to murder. Or it could stay small so that she allows herself half a glass before bed each night. Little things are handy in many ways.

Carol Kilgore said...

Mark-
Excellent comment. How boring if all our characters only liked what we liked and disliked all we did. You do need to reach outside yourself to come up with things, but using yourself as a source is a place to begin.

It's easier to take something you love and turn it around into something your character loathes than it is the other way around. It's always difficult to find anything good about something you hate. But think about things that fall in the center of the spectrum, things you have no strong feelings about. Those are easy to go either way.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Sometimes just making things opposite comes off false and superfical as well. This, like everything else, is a highwire act and some folks will see the wire no matter what you do.