I’m currently reading an exceptional book titled, Getting Into Character: 7 Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors, by Brandilyn Collins. Collins shows you how using the techniques actors use to “get inside the heads of their characters” can help you flesh out more realistic, memorable characters of your own in your writing. One of the fascinating aspects of this is developing and incorporating character traits or mannerisms.
Each one of us has some individual mannerism that helps define and shape how we present ourselves to others. For example, when I get nervous around people ( which is most of the time!) I have a habit of folding my hands in front of myself because they tend to shake and I don’t want anyone to notice the shaking. In my latest book. First Impressions, I gave that mannerism to my heroine, Clarissa, because she, too, is nervous when she meets new people. The hero notices it and whenever he spots this behavior, he attempts to quell her nerves. I know… le sigh!
I know someone who, when she gets angry, instead of blustering and bellowing with rage, becomes deathly quiet and speaks so lowly, it forces everyone around her to listen. What a powerful tool that is. I’m incorporating it into my next heroine.
Think of characters you have read or seen on television. What quirks made them memorable? Would Columbo have been as memorable if it hadn’t been for the way he cocked his head, squinted an eye and said, “just one more thing, if I may?” How about Magnum, P.I.? Forget about Tom Selleck’s moustache for a moment and think about the way he lifted his eyebrows and grinned whenever he wanted to be charming. Worked for me. Or how about Arthur Fonzerelli, aka The Fonz? Would he be as cool and remarkable if he hadn’t entered every room saying “Ayyyyyyy?” Or more recently, what about Fox Muldur and all those sunflower seeds he was perpetually eating?
Think of some of your own favorites, because as you can see, these all date me as a 70’s and 80’s chick!
In an old Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot book, whose title I can’t for the life of me remember, Poirot was able to catch a criminal who was an expert at disguises because whenever the bad guy ate bread, he would pull it apart into little pieces. Poirot spotted the guy doing this at a cafe and voila! Bad guy caught.
I think for the next few posts I’ll be discussing character development this way, and referring to the Collins book.
But first, here’s a sigh worthy photo:
So, what character traits do you find fascinating, in books, or tv, or movies? Let’s discuss….