Sunday, May 17, 2009

Little Details

It’s the start of another dreary day in Tennessee, though the weather people promise sunshine and cooler temperatures. The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plane, but the rain in Tennessee seems to fall mainly every day . . . until today. Woo-hoo!

Am I out frolicking in the cool, cloudy morning? Of course not. I’m sitting inside, second cup of coffee steaming next to me, and tap-tap-tapping away at the keys on my laptop as my brilliance pours forth like a waterfall down the side of a mountain – that’s a simile, just in case you’re wondering. For more on similes, allegories, and metaphors, check out the this post at The Literary Lab by the other Scott.

The brilliance that I just couldn't find Friday morning, has suddenly resurfaced. It could be due to lack of sleep, the fact that Jesse (one of the Cocker Spaniels) has been whining since about 5 this morning, or just that, sometimes, brilliance happens when it happens, and not on command.

I've been thinking a lot about characters lately. More to the point, about the details of characters. Stephanie Plum (Janet Evanovich's too dang funny bounty hunter) eats peanut butter and olive sandwiches. Eeeeewwww! Bilbo Baggins (if you have no clue, I'm sorry, there's no help whatsoever for you) loves to blow smoke rings and he was discombobulated to find out he left the house without a clean handkerchief on the day his adventure truly began. These are small, itty, bitty, almost minuscule details about the characters that endear the characters to me.

What traits (quirks, perhaps) do your characters have that will endear them to your readers? Do your characters have these little quirks? If not, why?

Here's another, major question: what do you know about your characters?

Here's some info about one of my main characters:
  • Blonde hair, brown eyes, wears size 32 jeans
  • Absolutely loves, loves, loves banana pudding
  • He drinks Crown and Coke with a twist of lime when he not drinking margaritas.
  • He loves reading mysteries - Carol Goodman is one of his favorite authors.
  • He has a cat.
  • He has two sisters and his parents are divorced.
  • Casper the Ghost has more of a tan than he does.
  • He loves to cook.
  • He loves the colors blue, green, and pink, and normally buys shirts in various shades of each of these colors.
  • He has an irritating habit of biting his lower lip when he's thinking.

The list goes on and on and on. Are these little details vitally important? Well, to me, yes. I want to know the little details about the characters I'm reading. I want to know their quirks, their favorite drinks, books, movies, and the fact that they absolutely love, love, love banana pudding or peanut butter and olive (eeewww) sandwiches.

Why am I writing about this on - just in case you're wondering - a still dreary Sunday morning in May? Because sometimes these little things are missing in the books I read. The characters are well developed, don't get me wrong, and I attach myself to the characters, but sometimes - the little things - there's something missing.

My advice: add in some quirks, some little things, that, years after people have read your book, they'll remember about your characters.

Well, that's it for today. My next post, sometime this week, is also going to concern little details, but in a broader perspective than just the characters. Stay Tuned!



Litgirl01 said...

"He drinks Crown and Coke with a twist of lime when he not drinking margaritas."

Isn't that you?? LOL

This is a great post...those little things can help bring characters to life. I'll have to give that some thought. :-)

I wonder of there is a person whose job it is to invent word verifications...something to ponder.

Scott said...

Very funny, Litgirl01!

I think the MC's a bit snarky as well . . .

There's something of me in almost every character I create . . . oh, and there's often something of people I know in my characters as well. Go figure! It's one of the perks (downfalls?) of being a writer.

Lady Glamis said...

My hero in my first book is named Jesse.... weird. LOL!

Great list there. And I agree. The little details really matter. Thanks for a great post!

KLo said...

Those details are vital ... even if they don't make their way into your final product, it's very important that a writer know every possible detail about characters he or she created. Excellent post : )

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Isn't it fun to know all these details about our characters? It's like being a secret keeper of a never ending treasure box :)

Scott said...

Lady Glamis - Jesse is going to be so honored that you named a character after him. It's all about him, you know. Trust me on that one. : )

KLo - you're right about the vitality of details. I normally do an Excel spreadsheet and list out all the specifics of each character so I have a handy reference guide . . . because trying to remember the gazillion details isn't as easy as it used to be. Often, a lot of the details don't get into the story, but they're in my mind and help shape the characters.

Karen - ABSOLUTELY. We have, or at least we think we have, total control of our characters. Oh, and the secrets I don't divulge about my characters . . .