Outside Forces

On my vacation journeys, I found ample time to people watch. I saw some pretty interesting action/reactions that I myself would not do or say. This is important as a writer to understand that other people are different in many ways.

I talk about behavior a lot because it’s important to any character and story to evolve characters and who they are. Or even make sure they don’t evolve, that they stay exactly who they started off as. Or make them de-evolve into the ‘bad guy’. Either way, as they bumble along, it’s important that they have reactions to situations.

Personality can be affected by outside forces. These extenuating circumstances can often cause a character to act… well out of character.

What outside forces am I talking about? The kind that can suddenly or even gradually force a person to act irrationally in one single moment or over a designated period of time.

Here are a few examples:

hunger/low blood sugar
Sun/Overheating
Sudden weather change

Thirst
Headache/Illness
Other people’s screaming children/loud noises
Bad Drivers

Greif*
Shock/fright
Injury/Pain
Exhaustion
Drugs
Alcohol

*While grief is an emotion, it is caused/forced by outside forces and is not(hopefully not) an everyday emotion.

It’s important to make sure that they still have some of their personality within the moment or shortly after. Also, note that it can be frustrating to have everyone that’s “Drunk” Behaves the same or have everyone “grieving” reacting exactly the same. If you’ve ever been to a funeral or watched a movie with one in it, you can see that individuals act individually. While variation doest mean I would have people acting in extremes (Unless necessary) I would have subtle differences or meaningful moments of uncharacteristic behavior that has a poignant place in the story or character development.

My advice about outside forces.
When used well they can add a dynamic and depth to any character. They can show perfect Pauline has a limit to her seemingly unending patience or that Fury driven Frank has a soft spot for kittens being abandoned in a garbage bag at the side of the road. 

-Sheryl

Other people posts

People Watching

Static Vs. Dynamic

My Posts From The Start

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

Bumble

Who Would Do What?

I recently spent a day at a theme park. It was hot, fun and full of a wide range of emotions. A fun little writing exercise I thought of while waiting in line for a ride has sparked today’s post.  My imagination run’s wild at times.

I like to think a lot about characters and how each behaves differently from the other. How would they react in certain situations?

More importantly, how would each character act if put in the same situation. It would be erroneous to believe they would act the same or all act the way I would have behaved.

I want to make sure I keep my characters individual as possible. That doesn’t mean that they can’t react the same, but that some would not. So how does that work? How can I keep enough variety?

I’ll start by setting up the scenario so you don’t have to read it over and over.

It’s a hot sunny day at a loud and overly busy theme park. The line up to get on to a popular ride is at least an hour-long. There is no shade and irritability is a common sound among parents hissing ‘stop’ at their children.

This particular ride is terrifyingly tall and raises the riders to the top to drop them quickly. Every time I looked up at it some would grit their teeth, some would pale while others would become excited and some nervous.  It has six sets of four seats in a row. Groups of people vary in size.  The excited and relieved people corralled in the staging gates are let into the area to find seating. A lone rider sits leaving a single seat open on a row of three unbeknownst to him. A family of four wants to ride together but there is only the single seat on one side and the three empty beside the single rider on the opposite side.

Example 1

“Excuse me, sir. Would you mind moving to the single seat on the other side so we can ride together?” The father asked.
“Oh, yeah sure. I didn’t realize there was an empty seat.” He said getting up to move.
“Thanks, man.” The father smiled. 
“No Problem.”

Example 2

“Excuse me, sir. Would you mind moving to the single seat on the other side so we can ride together?” The father asked.
The man threw his eyes up to the sky. “Fine. Even though I just freaking sat down and buckled in.” He said begrudgingly.
“I appreciate it man, thanks.”
“Sure whatever.” The man stalked off to the other side to sit.

Example 3

“Excuse me, sir. Would you mind moving to the single seat on the other side so we can ride together?” The father asked.
“I do.”
“It would be nice.” The father prompted. “We’d like to sit together.”
“Not my problem.” The man ignored the protests of the children for the separation.

Example 4

“Excuse me, sir. Would you mind moving to the single seat on the other side so we can ride together?” The father asked.
“Piss off.”
The tired family separated unhappily yet silently.

With each example, I had the single rider’s response increase in hostility. There are infinite ways this could go. The father could involve the ride attendants. The man could involve the ride attendants. They could get physical and evicted from the park. The ride attendant could get physical with the belligerent single rider.  The family could have been lying about the one empty seat and the single rider would have to wait another turn. Karma could get either and the ride breakdown.

How a person responds is as important as how a person initiates.

Example 5

“Seriously? Come on man there’s a single seat on the other side. We want to ride together.” The father said frustrated.
The man looked at the Father, seeing he was tired from the long day…

Again the single rider can respond in any way from polite to outright rage. This would depend on who that person is on a basic level. Unless there are extenuating circumstances well foreshadowed I wouldn’t have someone kind and calm, tell the man to Piss off.

Assessing the possibilities of alternate outcomes can also lead to possibly a more interesting angle, change the story or direction completely or cement the readers’ feelings toward a specific character, which is very important to do. If a reader doesn’t care one way or the other they might just stop reading or complain about wasting their time.

My advice about exploring the possibilities.
It’s honestly a lot of fun and if you take the time to try you might find a better angle or even another angle for another story altogether.

-Sheryl

Other reactive posts

What Do I Do About That?

What’s Your Story?

My Posts From The Start   

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

Grit

Influential Words

There is one subtle way to give a reader a feel for a character without stating their personality outright.It’s sort of a subliminal way to prepare the readers’ opinion of how you want them to perceive a character.

What I mean is using influential words, words that lend a tone or perception to anything. These are words that hold a connotation on their own. When used in dialogue or descriptions for and by a character they add to the overall tone of a character.

The opposite of this is true as well. Be careful what words you use or the reader might either become confused or feel your character in a different way than you intended.

As with all thing helpful moderation is key. This should be used sparingly too much and it will come across as forced or campy. Too little… well that would be not at all. Even once is sometimes enough to convey the message.

Examples of some of the base personalities that can be illustrated by a well-placed hint.

Good 
Honest/trustworthy
Calm
Easily Irritated
Quick to anger
Lovingly

Angry
Selfish
Giving
Conniving/Scheming
Spoiled
Kind/thoughtful

A person’s intentions, present actions, and future actions can be seasoned with just a little help.

For example:

Scott sat across from Susie snagging his fingernail repeatedly on a scratch in the small table. The tired waitress brought them their coffees; setting down the water spot covered mugs. 
Without glancing away from Susie, he thanked the waitress dismissing her with a flick of his hand.
Susie’s tongue darted out over her gloss covered lips, she cocked her head to the side narrowing her eyes. “Why’d you want to know exactly?”
Scott rested his hand around the hot mug rubbing his thumb over the glazed surface. “It’s a personal… issue. I just need to know.”
Susie smirked and picked up her mug nestled in both overly manicured hands. “So you’re the mystery man huh?” She sipped the hot liquid, scrunched her face, set the coffee down and nudged it away with her finger. 
Scott moved his dirty mug closer. “Yeah, I am. I need to know. Was there anyone else before or just after me?” The corners of his mouth twitched as he forced a smile.
“No. That bitch is all talk and no walk. Look man, we barely got along living together. She is a hard-ass roommate always nit-picking everything.”
Scott nodded. “Thanks. I just needed to know.” He pursed his dry lips.
Susie chuckled. “Sorry, pal you were the only one in months, like many months.” She got up and brushed the invisible dirt off her skirt. “Don’t go looking for sympathy from me. You’re the idiot that didn’t wrap it. Her problem is half yours now buddy.” Susie slipped her knockoff designer jacket over her slender shoulders.  “If you see her don’t tell her we spoke.”
Scott’s eyes scampered from the mugs, to his fists and over to Susie’s ass as she took a step away. “Wait Susie.” 
She sighed hard and turned. “What?”
“Would she have, you know, gotten pregnant on purpose?”
Susie gave Scott a leering once-over. “To trap you? I might even. But no I don’t think she would. She’s too smart for that.” Susie turned on her two-inch heel and hurried away. 
Scott watched her go and slammed his fist on the rickety table causing both full mugs to slosh over the rims and the table to tremble. “Dammit. Back to square one.” He muttered as he flung five dollars in the spilled coffee, got up and stalked out.

The negative words I used could have easily been left out, but they added a specific air to Scott’s intentions and present demeanor. Snagging, flick, dirty, forced, dry, scurried, slammed, fist, muttered, flung and stalked. They all suggest a negative intention or action. These words would never be used with someone good unless they are momentarily expressing an out-of-place emotional response. I had him move the dirty mug closer to give the image of embracing his bad intentions. Scurrying is a rat reference and I had him end up looking at her ass on purpose. It could have easily been her back or turned head or just a vague reference that she walked away. While Susie is a background character with very little substance in this story I made sure to convey her fake cheapness and her blunt raw honesty. I wanted Scott to believe her and set him back in his plot.

My advice on using keywords to illustrate intent/personality.
Definitely use them, maybe not as bluntly as I did for the example. Just be careful not to mix the message.

-Sheryl

Other wordy posts

Are you inging too?

The FAB pencil

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Lovingly
Tremble

Scamper

Mood swings

I don’t find people to be even tempered. At rest, at work, at home or at play people tend to be who they are for the most part. But, what happens when tempers flair or stress overwhelms? Can a quiet person become loud? Does a calm person snap and start yelling? Sure, people can behave outside their norm, as long as it is infrequent and outside the norm.

When I work on bringing Sasha down, I have her steady personality of hard working, caring, strong minded and level-headed put to the test. Her snippy and mean responses start to peek through when she’s pushed. So when she falls over, her mood changes, and so it should. When someone looses a good job, they don’t just get mad, shrug and say “that sucked”. It affects them, it worms  into their day and alters their personality until they adjust and move on. Sasha was just attacked by Baylor again at her home. Can’t say for sure but a mood swing or two might be in order. Since she just came out of a traumatizing moment I have to bring the tone down and let her settle, then I can slowly build up the anticipation toward the next dramatic event. For now I’ll let her mood wander a bit.

Sasha leaned her head back and looked at the drop ceiling with frustration in her eyes. “Protective custody?” She grimaced. “Where?”

The officer that took her statement tapped his pen incessantly. “Until we have Crowan in custody you need to be fully protected Miss Parsons. We will take you to a day’s inn hotel and post officers outside to guard you.

“Splendid. Can I just book one myself? If I have to do this I’d rather be somewhere nicer.”

“It can be arranged if you wish.” He got up with a huff. She nearly asked why that was offensive as he left. She had no clothes and was banned from her house until they decided to put her there as bait.

“I’ll never be comfortable in my home again.” She muttered to the tabletop. The officer told her with damage to her car it wasn’t safe to drive. When she went off the road, she hit a rock and caused damage. She didn’t even remember or notice hitting a rock. Shock they said twice; she was still in shock. She didn’t think so but what did she know of being in shock.

Cal opened the door and gestured for her to follow him so she did. He had her things anyway. “Officer Cooper said you wanted to waive our hotel for one of your own choice.”

“I didn’t mean to offend but.” She stopped. But what? It was offensive.

“I booked the Linux for you, I figured you wouldn’t want the days inn that we usually use.” He chuckled. “I had a female officer gather some things for you and they will be in your room.” He led her to the parking lot.

“Oh. Um thanks. I’ll pay for the room.” The Linux was a star above what she would have chosen.

“It’s not an issue. The upgrade however means you have to have direct in-house protection.”

She breathed in the cool calming night air in before getting in the car. “Direct in house?”

“Officer in room. Well in the attached suite. Two plain-clothes officers will be stationed outside as well.

“Oh. Who will be in the room with me?”

“I will.”

“You.” She frowned and looked out the window. That was too close. He unnerved her and since she met him, her life has turned to hell. “Does it have to be you?”

“You sure know how to cut a man down.”

“Sorry it’s just.”

“Look Sasha I get it, you made yourself clear at Starches. You’re not interested, not on the market and if you asked me you’re not even remotely honest about why.”

Her head turned fast, her brow furrowed. “I don’t owe you an explanation.”

“No you don’t, we don’t know each other very well. I meant honest to yourself. You’re miserable for some reason and I’m betting it’s mostly your own doing. Regardless, it’s my job to keep you safe. End of story. If you want total strangers watching over you from a car parked obviously on the road, then go to the days inn.”

“No. You’re okay I guess.”

“Good to know.” The sarcasm rolled thick in his voice.

He pulled into the hotel, they got out and he opened the trunk so she could get her belongings. She followed him numbly as they checked in and went up to their room. She tried to look around and appreciate the décor but couldn’t focus.

The room was divided into three, a common room with a couch, table and two chairs flanked by bedrooms that each had their own bathroom.

“Do not leave this room without me, do not use the phone, you can call work in the morning.”

“Whatever Detective Dictator. I don’t need to call work, I was planning to take some time off to work on a project at home. I’ll have to let Val and Anne know that I lost my phone so they don’t freak out and call the… police.”

“Tomorrow. Stay off the internet and if you need anything let me know and I’ll order room service.”

She blinked her burning eyes at him and held her roiling stomach. She was precariously close to throwing up. Her mind heard his words but her body stopped processing. It all came crashing down, the surreal weight of the evening broke her defenses and she started crying.

Cal saw it coming, she was trying too hard to hold it in and be a tough girl. Save it for the movies, he always said. The real world was a whole lot more emotional. She ran for what she presumed was her bedroom and right through to the small bathroom.

Cal sat on the couch to make some calls. He could hear her, that would have to be enough.

A rough night and a rough reaction. Stress and strain can cause outbursts and behavior glitches that can sometimes be embarrassing or even hard to shake. Sasha probably thinks it couldn’t get worse, silly girl, she doesn’t know who controls her destiny. *insert evil laugh.

My advice about mood swings.
They can be serious, dramatic or even funny if you pace them well. Have fun and try having someone get snitty or even silly on the flip of a dime.

-Sheryl

other blog posts

It’s a love hate sort of thing

Hey! Its’ Interjection

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 Anticipation