Last night, I was reading a book on Hiroshima (the book is called “Hiroshima: Why America Dropped The Atomic Bomb” by Ronald Takaki if you guys are interested in it) and the author wrote about how Harry Truman didn’t say the same thing to people around him during the decision to drop the bomb. I won’t go into details about this as this isn’t the time and place to talk about it but it did got me thinking about how people have a different attitude towards others.
It’s something that we do every day yet we don’t think about it. It’s as if we have a switch when we talk with people. I don’t speak the same way to my friends as to do with my parents. I don’t call my parents a ‘bitch’ to greet them. I also don’t call them by their first name. What surprises me about this (and it really shouldn’t if you think about it) is that even among my friends, I don’t approach them the same way. Why? I don’t share the same relationship with them.
The same is true for your characters. When you try to connect your character to others, try to put this idea to use. Let’s take one of my characters, Coralline, as an example.
First, you have a general idea of her personality but in order for me to really bring her to life, I’m going to put her into context. Coralline is blunt, stubborn, ruthless and self-confident. She’s going through a divorce with her Olympic golden medalist wife Zeffie and she’s willing to do anything to get the most out of it. This doesn’t thoroughly explain who she is. If I were to write a character biography for her, I’d go further into how she came to be this way. In other words, I’d go into her history. This is when the next point gets into play.
Secondly, you have her attitude towards other characters. Characters don’t develop independently. They’re shaped by their values, experiences, family, friends, environment, surroundings. Your character has an opinion on all of this. Let’s take the family members of Coralline.
She has an older brother, a sister-in-law, two nephews and a niece. Her older brother died a few years ago but to this day, she’s still trying to protect him. She despises her sister in law because she blames her for her brother’s death. She openly makes fun of one her nephews because his wife is almost as old as her. She ignores her second nephew because he’s an adopted child and looks just like his mother who she disliked as a teenager. She thinks her niece if a freak and didn’t hesitate to send her to boarding school to get her away from the house. These are only her family members yet she doesn’t think of them the same way. Along with the general idea of her personality, history and relationships we get a better and deeper idea of who she is.
Finally, you have the attitudes of other characters towards her. Her wife still loves her but can’t stand being around her. When he was alive, her brother was always there for her and they were close. Her sister in law is afraid of her and only half heartedly stands up to her. Her niece enjoys spending time with her and sees her as a mother. Her nephews ignore her and one of them feels sorry for her for being so cold hearted.
Coralline won’t approach people the same way and they won’t either. A lot of people seem to forget this when GIF chatting or replying to another character. It’s just a simple fact that we do not approach people the same way. Relationships are’t easy to define and are different for each and every one of us. Don’t forget that when conversing with other characters.