The group of friends trip in California wine country was, all in all, terrific fun. Three of us from the northwest listened to an audio novel of repute with characters galore on our drive south. Building believable, authentic characters that pull our readers into their stories is a primary goal for all writers. Strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, past stories, and conflicts hold the reader’s attention… not a flat personality with a blah personality, though comic relief can work well with an otherwise blah character. Paramount to this being done effectively means the ubiquitous advice/mandate: “show, not tell.” So, I observed and made mental notes all week. I arrived home with massive mental notes.
I fervently watched people walking, having a meal, sipping wine, and in many contexts I found on our trip. Annoyances appear visibly on facial expressions. Our faces give us away as does the slope of our shoulders or eye contact . How to describe that and awaken our reader’s interest without telling her that a character is unhappy, without the character speaking her truth, or, “tell” as authors do.
Meeting with two friends yesterday, we had a conversation about how long it takes a group for the alphas, the pouters, the passive aggressors and the subversive controllers to emerge. Not long. Human beings are motivated by a variety of needs and wants and if they know each other well, personal habits show themselves quickly. Strangers may take more time.
I had fun “being a watcher” this past 10 days, and realised the informative potential in staying alert. After all, aren’t we thinking about our projects anyway?