Today I’m continuing yesterday’s discussion on characterization.
How deep do you go with your characterization. Do you rely on stock characters? Or, in your writing, do characters have a lot in common when, superficially at least, this seems unlikely? This is, after all, how it works in real life.
This is something I’ve been considering since I realized how much my husband has in common with a friend of ours. When I first mention this to people who know them both, I get some funny looks. You see — at first glance, it doesn’t seem likely. I can see what it is that is tripping people up — appearance. My husband is the out-doors model — think Grizzly Adams or the guy you run into at Cabelas. The other, definitely GQ. And it goes beyond appearance because their musical tastes, hobbies and jobs are very different too.
But when you pay attention to them, they are a lot alike. Both are people watchers, they value the same things, and they both come through and help people in quiet unassuming ways. Not to mention that one of our cats is torn about who to lavish with attention when they are both here.
Lauren Myracle reflected this kind of reality in Love, Peace and Baby Ducks. Carly, her main character, differs in many ways from the other rich kids she knows. They value different things, they dress differently and their goals very seldom mesh. Though their backgrounds are nearly identical, they are very different.
When Carly meets a boy who likes the same music she does, whose values aren’t mainstream and who has a similar offbeat sense of humor, she’s sure she’s found her soul mate. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s fabulous eye candy. But letting this work would be too easy and Myracle likes to make things tough for her characters. When Carly gets to know this boy better, she realizes how very different their values truly are. Instead she eventually connects with her best male friend. They come from different countries, they don’t like the same music and they are different in oh so many ways. But in the ones that are important, they connect.
Myracle has done a top notch job with her characters. Common backgrounds don’t make for common values. Likes and dislikes in pop culture don’t make for common values. It is all much deeper than that.
Take a look at this book for a lesson on taking your characterization more than skin deep.