Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Character's Course Through a Story--Hole 3: Creating World View

Establishing your character's view of the world is such important part of making your character distinctive, it's a figurative "hole of it's own" in this golf course of character development we're walking through this summer. 

I also realized that readers will have to do a lot less scrolling, if I posted each "hole" of this course in separate blog.

World view is the way your character uniquely views the world s/he lives in and the more unique and nuanced you can make this world view, the more real your character seems. Junie B. Jones entirely kid-centric, totally Junie way of seeing things has made those books an international success because of her own unique, but totally relatable way of looking at the world. 

Showing the Readers The World "Anew"

Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life points out that authors need to recognize that choosing to be a writer is also saying that they have something to show the world they might not see on their own. When we write about life, we should do so with the knowledge that we need to help people see the world they live in "anew"--as if it is new to them.

Unique character world view is one way to do that. In my own work, I have characters who often have world views that are askew from those around them. In 1930s Louisiana, Nissa Bergen has a mama who crosses the color line, the gender line, nearly every other line she finds-- a free spirit, she refuses to bow to social customs. Nissa is her own girl as well, when her best friend, Mary Carroll intends to go flower picking in a dress wearing perfume, Nissa wants to know if Mary wants every wing flapping bug in the parrish to be tormenting them because perfume is just a nasty smelling bug attractor to her--not the typical feminine view.

Just as each writer should learn unique ways to describe ordinary things, they should be able to look at the world from a unique set of eyes and be able to look at the world through the eyes of each of their characters, even if they don't like the view. 

Seeing the World Through A Character's Eyes

Acting theory is a great way to learn more about how to see things from a character perspective. Screenwriters and fellow authors can also be helpful in this regard. Here's a recent article from the Huffington Post that might be helpful:

5 Ways Writers Can Get into the Minds of Their Characters

But let me offer an exercise that can limber up your literary mind reading skills. Go to a public place with a lot of traffic and pay attention without being intrusive. Notice how people reveal what they think of the world by the way they dress, what they eat, what they read, and how they carry themselves. 

If you see someone reading, try to imagine what they think of what they're reading based on the material, their appearance, and their body language, then ask for their opinion. 

Ask three different people what they think of a movie? A type of weather? A historical figure to notice how they express their world view differently.

This type of exercise hones your skills and allows you to internalize the way that each person exhibits a unique view of the world.

How do you get into the mindset of your characters?

No comments:

Post a Comment