When I write depth into characters can be complicated and simple at the same time. Complicated because they need a history, a set structure of behaviors, actions and reactions. Simple because they are human and can be unpredictable when necessary. When I start out building the foundation for a character like Sasha, I have to have her backstory set out and ready to work from. She struggles to get a head and seems to fall short on the luck end of the scale. Something from her past haunts her and holds her back. Now her boss handed her a project laced with false promise and subtle threats, the content goes against her morals but she needs the money. I tend to start someone like this already low, have life toss her a few more blows before she is able to shake them and rise above. Sasha is the kind of person that hides what’s beneath, not well, but she tries. Her shame is in her self-perceived weakness of character, a failure as a woman who should be strong in the face of adversity.
Sasha hung up the desk phone hard on her friend Anne and sat back in her chair. Anne and Valery weren’t giving in, they were going to drag her out to the bar tomorrow no matter what they had to do. She reached over and closed the ominous file that her boss gave her hours ago. She packed it in her briefcase with her laptop and sighed heavily. The project had to be illegal, everything about it felt wrong. The email she just read from her lawyer said the Smithson’s lawyer won the argument and they didn’t have to pay her back for the leaky roof they lied about nor the huge crack in the foundation they hid. Of course not, why should Sasha catch a break today? It was a long shot but the shady owners had left a lot of nasty surprises that they covered up with paint and lies.
She swallowed hard as her turbulent mind made her stomach jump and taught nerves cry to go home, the falling down shamble that it was, and crawl into bed and stay there for the next week. Valery would be popping by in a minute to make sure she wasn’t going to bail and run on their dinner plans tonight. Sasha closed her eyes, took a deep breath and composed herself. She slipped into an uncomfortable façade and smiled as her door opened. Best to play along, then they would leave her alone so she could cry later.
People in the real world behave this way, smile, fake it and let nobody know. People react differently to situations and not always the way I would. I try to pay attention to others and to how they handle things. Sometimes it goes against my sense of logic and that is what I need to write in to a character. Something that frustrates or annoys people. Because that is real. I can’t have everyone doing and reacting to things the same way. They can’t all agree and they can’t all get along. They can fake it, they can even show their displeasure, they key is consistency. Sasha isn’t likely to yell at her friends for being friends, she will suck it up and crawl into her misery shell later. Sasha is coming up to the anniversary of the day that reminds her of the worst day of her life. Her friends won’t let her wallow, and things are not looking up for her. The meanie I am will write her downfall and it’s going to be a hard fall. Don’t worry someone will help her through it all, support her while she gets back up and dusts off the crap I throw at her.
Some, not all people put on airs of one sort or another. A false face presented to the world. Not everyone pretends to be happy, some people pretend to be jerks, or unhappy or even sick. I mean come on all you have to do is look at co-workers, how many are genuinely happy to see the boss emerge from their cave of wonders to judge your efforts on looking productive?
My advice about facades in characters.
They make people interesting so I recommend adding them to make a character feel real to the reader. Take some time to watch people, real live people in action. Pay more attention to them and even yourself.
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