Friday, April 13, 2007

Learning from my Weather Man

The weather has me on edge. Actually, it's the weather girl who has me on edge. She looks about 10 years old and I'm wondering what she could possibly know about the weather. It doesn't calm my nerves to hear that she'll be around all night, keeping me updated. First, because the station usually goes off the air when weather is extremely bad, and secondly, she doesn't have a calming manner. I want Curtis back. Where is he? I trust him and his Alabama accent.

Funny how we get used to our favorite news and weather personalities and hate change. I became attached to a certain newscaster in Houston a few years ago and watched him around 5:00 every morning while getting my husband off to work. I liked the way he talked about being a dad and how expressive his face was. And I enjoyed his interaction with his female counterpart. Then one morning I turned on the TV and he was gone. I lost interest in the early morning news after that. I never developed a relationship with the new team.
I wonder if we can learn something about characterization from this. We have to make our characters likable from the get-go. Even the not-so-good guys. Sometimes that's a tough job. An interesting exercise is to list your characters down the left side of a sheet of paper or on an index card, then identify their bad traits. Next, give them a good trait or two or three. If you can't come up with any good traits for a character, then you need to go all the way back to his childhood to determine why he doesn't have any. He wasn't born bad to the bone; something or someone made him that way.

I know why I like Curtis. First, his southern accent makes him special. He's cute and has a genuine warmth about him. What clenched it for me was when I read his bio and learned that his mom gave him some orange cones when he went away to college just in case he had car trouble. Now that's a mom I can identify with. Does Curtis have flaws? I sure had to search for them but I've come up with two: he's on the verge of letting his weight get a little out of hand, and sometimes I can't stand the way he button's his jacket. Okay, so I had to stretch. :)

Creating a character readers like, can identify with and root for is pretty tricky. It takes practice and a lot of rewriting and layering. We want readers to know our characters so well that they think they recognize them walking down a street or sitting in a cafe. In fact, what it amounts to is this: our readers need to develop a relationship with each character in our story. Otherwise, they just might quit reading.

1 comment:

Christa said...

Great post! You reminded me about how I felt when I'd see Nash Roberts. I trusted him with his grease pencil and white board during Katrina more than those fancy schmancy doppler "we can tell you whose backyard it's raining in" gigs.