This is the sixth in an ongoing series of StoryCrafting/StoryTelling posts I’m publishing for my own benefit; explaining something helps me determine if I’ve truly learned it or am simply parroting what others have offered. I learn my weak spots, what I need to study, et cetera.
Previous offerings include:
- Atmosphere is…
- Character is… (Part 1)
- Character is… (Part 2.1) – Exposition is…
- Character is… (Part 2.2) – Description is…
- Character is… (Part 2.3) – Action is…
And note that I’ll update/upgrade/edit these posts as I learn more.
Shading – building a character by revealing contradictions about them.
A favorite quote of mine is “If you want to know someone’s mind, listen to their words. If you want to know someone’s heart, watch their actions.” It’s a favorite because it demonstrates one way to understand someone. Their heart and mind aren’t coordinated, aren’t in sync.
Specifically, it’s how their heart and mind aren’t in sync that matters. You may have heard the expressions “X says one thing and does another” and a personal favorite from childhood, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
A rich social example of this is pedophilia in the roman catholic church. Are these men holy or horrible? Or both? And do we need to recognize both aspects of their nature?
Well, yes. Especially if we want to use them as a rich, complex character rather than a stereotype. It’s the shading – specifically how these dual natures are revealed – that determines if a character is a genre-trope or main, primary or central character. Does the main character have a side-kick he has to explain things to, such as Sherlock Holmes’ Dr. Watson? Have you noticed that every detective novel since (and probably before) has had a sidekick to whom the main character explains things? Side-kicks regardless of genre are tropes. Sherlock Holmes was a genre trope until he developed weaknesses. Now a main character with a weakness is a genre trope.
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