|Characters: Creating Characters|
Supposing you were a witness to a crime, you might have to describe the criminals to the police. You would be building up an image for them. Here are some details that help.
Clothes: Smart, casual, working clothes, unusual, fashionable, distinctive, certain colours, ethnic, distinguishing marks on the clothes like trade marks, tears, patches, stains, etc.
Figure: Tall, short, fat, thin, broad, lean, athletic, frail, muscular, weedy, upright, bent, heavy, light, angular, wiry.
Head: Round, oval, long, wide, high/low forehead.
Face: Square jawed, weak jawed, flat faced, horse faced, open-faced.
Eyes: Colour, bulging, squinting, glasses, bright, happy, sad, staring. eyes close/wide, twinkling, sparkling, almond shaped, slit, shifty, beady, round.
Eyebrows: Thick, bushy, wispy, thin, curved, pencilled.
Skin: Wrinkled, smooth skinned, facial defects/markings, pale, swarthy, dark, dusky, fair, bronzed, freckled, dimpled, sunburnt, ruddy, tanned, rough, hairy, pimply, blotchy, florid, fresh, spotted.
Mouth: Wide, thin, happy, sad, twisted, full-lipped, cleft-lipped, pouting, grim.
Teeth: Regular, irregular, prominent, decayed, gleaming, projecting, uneven, dirty, with braces, gapped.
Hair: Neat, unruly, straight, wavy, curly, bleached, coloured, grey, unkempt, fine, coarse, blonde, brunette, black, streaked, silvery, punk, golden, silky, plaited, short cut, pigtailed, tangled, coiffured, balding.
Nose: Long, short, snub, straight, broad, broken, bulbous, aquiline, Roman, pointed, flat, twisted.
Accent: Educated, uneducated, regional, derived (school), foreign.
Speech Mannerisms: High/low voice, fast/slow speaking, lisp, stammer, fluent, halting, clear, indistinct.
Age: Young, middle aged, old, sprightly.
Movements: Quick, slow, agile, ponderous, jerky, clumsy, delicate, graceful, confident.
Personality: Nice, nasty, generous, mean, proud, haughty, kind, vain, cheerful, easy going, spiteful, loveable, distant, stubborn, timid, excitable, frantic, neurotic, calm, bold, confident, uncertain, shy.
Disabilities: Deaf, Blind, Dumb, Physically handicapped, Ill, Mentally handicapped, Having phobias or compulsions.
Props: Glasses, cigarettes, walking stick, umbrella, rings, wristwatch, bags being carried.
Being able to describe your characters in detail will help greatly in developing other aspects of their personality, and the personality will help in showing how they will react in various circumstances such as danger, a crisis, a new experience.
A good test of a character is to put them in different circumstances than they would normally be in, and work out what they would do.
By changing the circumstances in a storyline you will often see a range of possible character developments that may be exploited.
Every story relates to someone doing something because:
What that 'something' is, needs to be made clear. Sherlock Holmes stands to gain by solving crimes as it both pays him a fee and gives him something to puzzle over. Popeye only uses spinach when threatened physically, so stands to lose if he does not use it. Superman only uses his powers when there is trouble. Although he personally may not stand to lose anything, society as a whole stands to lose, and he is society's protector. Aladdin's evil uncle stands to gain by having the magic lamp. Snow White's wicked stepmother stands to lose by having Snow White around. Cinderella's family stands to lose by letting Cinderella try on the lost slipper. The wolf stands to win by finding out where Red Riding Hood's grandmother lives.
Obvious ideas like Superman losing his powers, Aladdin losing his lamp, Popeye losing his spinach etc. have been used. These are allegories for people losing power, love, friends, money, and the things that they depend on for their survival and life-style.
The fear of losing one's power and position is a strong motive for doing crazy things. This theme comes up often in stories in many variations. Here are a few:
The opposite situation is also story material. What happens to someone who suddenly gets money, love, power, strength, authority, control. It changes some for the better and others for the worse. It brings both benefits and disadvantages to the finder.
It is important to know why a character changes when circumstances change. Aladdin may gaze at the princess but knows he could never approach her. The magic lamp gives him the opportunity to do so because money is a condition for meeting her.
Supposing Aladdin had to earn a large amount of money to meet the princess, what alternatives would he have?
Working all his life to become rich would not be a solution as he and she would be too old. He would need to become rich while still young. How could he do that? Some possibilities are:
Each one of these possibilities might solve the financial problem, but brings in other problems. To be acceptable to a princess, a commoner would have to have both the money and the right social background.
The theme is a common one where a previously poor person wants to break into high level social circles. The way they go about it can be humorous (The Marx Bros. use this theme several times).
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