Note from Cassandra: I’m visiting Eric’s blog today but he has generously agreed to guest post here in the realm. Thanks Eric, it is great to have you here. After you’ve checked out Eric’s post, pop on over to Working My Muse and check out the first post of my blog tour.
First off I’d like to say a huge thank you to Cassandra for having me at Casa ‘del Jade. Guest blogging here (being the first person, no less) is awesome beyond words. But since you’re all expecting at least a few words, I guess I better become temporarily brilliant.
When I began to search my brain for a topic, I’ll be honest; I became a little stressed. While I do have my own flair, this is a new type of fun and puts blogging on a whole new level. And fronting for Cassandra is pretty dang cool. This thought took me down an interesting path however, and I began thinking about my characters.
When we write our stories, it’s expected that our characters deal with change, with difficult situations. This is part of what helps propel our stories forward and keep the reader interested. But isn’t it reasonable to have our characters get a little stressed from time to time? And how do we show that in our writing? One way we can describe this is through physical effects. For example, I tend to get cold sores on the inside of my lip when I get too stressed. If I really get stressed out, upset stomach is an indicator. I can imagine something similar for my characters.
What about situational descriptions? If my characters come upon a body, torn apart from some unknown violence, do they just abstract about the nature of death or do they lose a bit of their usual cool demeanor? Consider the following conversation:
“Oh damn Billy, that guy’s dead. Lookit how his arm is hangin’ kinda wrong. And his head is split open like one of those punkins you toss out at Halloweenie.”
“Yep, he ain’t with us no more. Can’t tell who he was, but them tears along his belly look almost like Freddy Kruger claws. Weird, huh? So you wanna go get some pizza?”
Now unless you’re looking for a comedic moment, the reader might be expecting a little more from these two characters stumbling across an obviously mangled body. Dead bodies usually cause sane people to freak out a little. Perhaps one of them just crumbles on the floor, wailing in agony while the other one is more interested in investigating what happened to the poor chap. However you choose to deal with this situation, moments like these are a great opportunity to show characterization. The only caveat I would add is to avoid clichés or stereotypical responses to stress. If it fits your character honestly, then cool. But if it sounds like the same ol’ phrasing everyone uses, you probably want to avoid it.
To sum up, stress doesn’t have to be a bad thing, especially when we’re writing a story. Stress is one of the best moments we can use to bring our characters alive, make them truly real. Just keep the writing honest, not cliché. Thank you Cassandra for allowing me to grace your page. This has been a fun exercise for me.
As for the rest of you, have you stressed your characters out lately? If not, what are you waiting for? A stressed-out character is a real character – even if they’d rather be in Cancun sipping a margarita on the beach.