Friday, May 23, 2014

Secrets of Creating Characters in Written Fiction (Part 21)

Religion, Praying, Psychology, and Soul Baring

Soul baring is a mechanism whereby your character say almost any unsayable thing, and say it in his own words. This technique brings the character’s inside to the outside. It allow you to pit your character against some outside force that challenges the way that they rationalize and justify. It allows the development of viewpoint and idea where a character would otherwise be intransigent. It allows for the expression of character in a way that few other techniques allow.

Dueling ideas is a wonderful conflict. That goes straight to the center of the psyche. Inside your characters head, his self-conception is at war with itself. The exact detailing of the conflict tells you a great deal about the character. Your hero might feel no remorse at killing countless opponents, but find great turmoil after killing a tied up dog. That may seem nonsensical, but his psychologist or priest helps him to explore why he feels the way that he does.

Internal conflict leads to external change. If we want a significant change in direction from our character, then we need to inform the audience of that change. We need a mechanism by which that change becomes understandable. Sometimes people really are struck by massive realization, like Paul of Damascus. On occasion, that might work. Most of the time, your character is just going to have to wrestle down her own demons.

Praying is also wonderful self-expressive technique. Praying allows a character to voice hopes and dreams. People pray for what they want to come to pass. They thank God for things that they find important. They voice concern for things that they find concerning. Even if this praying comes from someone else, the nature of the character’s religion sticks to them. Your character may not be devout, but did grow up in a Buddhist household. Ideas and conceptions of Buddhism will spill over onto your main character. Mom might be the one praying for her daughter to get a clue.

You see psychologists in stories where the character knows that they are troubled. This, in itself, is a major characterization point. You tell your reader, “this character has a significant conflict.” The mind, being funny about the way that it works, leads us into unusual ways to explore our characters. The mind also leads us to things which are painful and upsetting. By not charging into a subject, but instead trusting our characters to lead us there, we are able to walk our readers into truly terrifying areas.