Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Characters in Everyday Life

Nov. 26, 2009 - New York, New York, USA - SNOOPY BALLOON.AT MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE 11-26-09.PHOTOS BY - PHOTOS,INC©2009...K63610JBB. © Red Carpet Pictures
Okay, so while we didn't specifically talk about the Peanuts crew in my writing class this week, we did discuss characters (and these are some of my favorite characters). Characters in stories need to be believable, so the best way to develop characters is by keeping your eyes and ears open all day long. Taking snippets of everyday life and incorporating them into stories builds a base that people can relate to, and will make readers keep turning pages. This works for ALL characters. Even villains work best when there's some issue that helps the reader understand why they are the evil way they are. Sympathy (or empathy, or some kind of 'pathy) does wonders for character development.
So let's look at our Peanuts gang and see if we can find their flaws, their desires and all that good stuff that makes a character into a realistic person we can care about:
Charlie Brown: poor Charlie Brown! He is a normal kid, with a little sister and a dog. He wins spelling bees, but crumbles under pressure. He has a crush on the little red-headed girl. He is not so great at sports; in fact, kites and footballs seem to be going after him. Good grief! So what does he desire? Probably a normal dog, a normal sister, normal friends. A well-placed kick at that football. A nice day with a kite. A chat with the little red-headed girl.
Snoopy: well, he's a complex dog! He likes writing and imagining stories with him as the hero. He likes doing his own thing. He likes dancing. But... Snoopy has some family issues that come to light. He has some visits from long-lost brothers, but they never feel quite at home in Snoopy's little doghouse. This is a dog that yearns for adventure, but also for the stability of a family.
Linus: oh, little Linus is one of my favorites. So innocent and pure! So dependent on his blanket! Linus loves spending time with friends and he loves his security blanket. He is either unaware or just ambivalent to the affections of Sally. His desires are to write that perfect letter to Santa, tell the world the true meaning of Christmas and to see the Great Pumpkin!
Lucy: well, I guess if anyone's a villain in this list, it's Lucy. She's always the one pulling the football from Charlie Brown and overcharges (in my opinion) for her advice. But she's always around, so there's something about that group that keeps her there. Oh... I know. It's Schroeder, the man of Lucy's dreams and lover of classic music composers.
So, there we go. Even in the simplest of stories, the characters are multi-dimensional and interesting. Each one has his or her own desire or obstacle to overcome.
Think about characters in your favorite stories: What drives them? What changes in them throughout the story? Why do you care about them, or hate them, or pity them?

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