Monday, October 26, 2009

Bringing characters to life

There are some characters who are particularly appealing from the first page or the first scene.

When the TV show The Mentalist started, I was immediately drawn to Jane, the protagonist. I didn't think much about it in terms of character development until last Friday night when White Collar premiered. It struck me as I watched the character Nick Caffrey that he appealed to me immediately also.

What was it about them? Both are con men of sorts with a serious side disguised by an overtly mischievous side. Those characteristics made them entertaining to watch.

As a writer, I naturally thought about the fact that the writers of those shows were largely responsible for those wonderful characters. After all, they wrote the snappy dialogue.

The progression of my thinking about all this led me to wonder how, if I wanted to write a scene of either of these shows, would I describe the twinkle in the eye or the slight nod of the head that made those snappy lines snap? How could I adequately translate to paper the wonders of their acting?

After wondering about that made my head hurt, I realized that solving this dilemma would make a good writing exercise.

So.... here you have it. Your assignment is to study one character on a favorite show. Take down a few minutes of dialogue. Then, write the same scene as if writing it for a novel. Your assignment is to meld into the dialogue the movements and mannerisms of each character to bring the dialogue to life.

Don't do this just once. Repeat until you get a feel for your character inside and out.

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