“I have no idea what your character is feeling?” “Give me more of your character’s thoughts.”
Character emotion and thoughts are two things that I have trouble balancing. I’ll think I have it right and my critique group disagrees. So I rewrite it and then it looks, to me, like way too much. I think I may have stumbled on a solution when I read Mary Kate’s post on character stance.
Basically, what it boils down to is this, instead of giving straight up details on setting and other characters, let the reader know what your character thinks or feels. Its a great way to work in backstory, emotion and inner dialogue without it being quite so obvious. I decided to take a look at the page that I roughed out yesterday.
- Clem spotted an expanse of enormous, fuzzy leaves. She shifted a few to look beneath and finally found several round green fruit, one here, one there, not clustered. “Pumpkins. Not ripe. But this is the right area. Keep looking.”
What could I do with this? I could let the reader know whether or not Clem likes pumpkin, how she likes pumpkin or what she wishes they’d found. Any of these would give a bit more information about my character and help the reader feel that much closer to her.
- “It’s something but is it something we can eat?” asked Clem. “Pinch one of the leaves and tell me what it smells like.”
Gabe gave it a tweak and sniffed at his fingers, wrinkling up his nose. “Pee-ew. Onions.”
This one is a touch better. We know that Gabe doesn’t like onion but why? How does Clem feel about onion? Maybe the smell reminds him of someone or someplace else.
- Gabe nodded and they kept looking. In a clear, grassy patch where the sun shone, Clem fingered a lacy flower. “Queen Anne’s Lace. Mama’s favorite. If we’d caught ‘em before they flowered, we could eat ‘em.”
I can’t help but feel that I did a little bit better with this one because I worked in some backstory. This is Mom’s favorite. Hmm. Maybe I should have had each of the children pick a sprig.
Small details can tell us about the character’s past, what she loves and the things that are running through her mind.