As you may have noticed, it has been a long time since my last post. While I can’t promise my posts are going to start to become frequent, I can say that I plan on making an honest effort to post at LEAST once a month – to start. The end goal is a post a week, but we shall see!
Quick Update: My twins are now 1.5 years old, and still as time consuming as they were before… just in a different way. Right now, however, I am in the middle of move (from CA to UT), and while I started a new job in and moved right away, the family is still in California. I miss them dearly, but it has allowed me a few extra minutes to write – hence this post!
On to the goods!
First, let me say that there are many good books, posts, and articles about character development. My good friend, R. Garrett Wilson, has several posts on the subject, so I am only going to focus on how character development affects transparent narrative.
To reiterate for the newbies, transparent narrative, is in essence, a concept where the words, paragraphs, chapters, and pages become transparent, rendering a clear and unobstructed path from the story teller to the story receiver. This is the the most important goal of every writer.
An essential piece of creating that transparency is to sell the reader on the plausibility of what you are sharing. During your character’s development, it is very important to maintain believability. For example, let me introduce a character here while you pay attention to your doesn’t-feel-authentic-o-meter (DFAM for short).
Kyle, a short, overweight man, had always wanted to be a police officer. Always cautious to pay his debts and follow the local laws, Kyle was determined to have a spot-free record for his background checks – once he lost enough weight to pass his physical-exam, that is.
Early one Saturday in early summer, Kyle had decided that diet alone would not make him succeed. No, Kyle would need to do more than that. So, instead of watching the news that morning, he decided to go out jogging.
The day had already began to warm up as Kyle trotted away from his porch. He smiled despite the fact that had ran out of breath, only 15 seconds into his run. Breathing heavy, Kyle slowed to a walk and put his hands on his hips.
He continued to gasp for breath, finding he was much more out of shape than he had deluded himself to be. Lifting his arms above his head – a trick his mother had taught him to get more oxygen into his lungs – Kyle crossed the street.
A blaring honk and a screech made his heart race even more. He jerked to his left just in time to see the taxi cab slide to a stop, not two feet away.
Kyle raised his middle finger at the driver and swore. He stood there, waiting to see if the driver was going to get out to start something. Kyle was always ready for a good fight.
What struck you as out of character? Did your DFAM go off when Kyle flipped off the driver? Did that pull you out of the story? Now, what if the story went like this instead:
…A blaring honk and a screech made his heart race even more. He jerked to his left just in time to see the taxi cab slide to a stop, not two feet away.
Kyle stood in shock as the taxi driver swore at him. He put his hands up and said, “I’m so sorry! So sorry!” as he continued across the street. His heart raced fast as he realized just how close a call that had been.
He would have to pay closer attention, light-headed or not. You can’t join the police force if you’re dead, he thought.
Does that seem a little more in character? Sure it does, which makes for smooth reading. Keeping your character true to themselves is important. To do that, you need to know your character.
So if making your character contradict his own personality takes your reader out of the story, you should never do that, right? Wrong. Actually, contrary to what I had written, there are times that making your character act out of character, is actually in character. What do I mean? Well, Nathan Bransford, author and blogger-to-the-stars, has an excellent post on using contradictions to develop characters.
The takeaway from this post is that you want your characters to be well developed. If the reader doesn’t connect with your character, or if they do not believe your character is authentic, they will be removed from the story – hence, no transparency for you!
Watch for more on transparent narrative soon…ish.