Friday, October 2, 2009

Characters with a Paradox

By Marcia Mickelson

I've been teaching a writing class at church. This past week, we discussed characterization. One of the topics I focused on was making dynamic characters by adding a paradox to their personality.

I talked about making sure that characters are consistent in their actions. In the book, Creating Unforgettable Characters, Linda Seger says that "characters, like people, have a kind of core personality that defines who they are and gives us expectations about how they will act."

However, people can sometimes be unpredictable. Finding a paradox in someone we know or in a character we're reading about draws us toward them. A paradox can make a dynamic and unique character.

Here are a few examples of what I mean, withe the paradox in boldface.

A college professor who is a father of four. He's a good husband, a good father, and a leader in his church. He very intelligent and well-spoken and also winning his fantasy baseball league.

A PhD student who is almost finished with her doctorate and is working on her dissertation. She's intelligent, philosophical, and very focused on her schooling. She's also a huge Twilight fan and collects some of the memorabilia.

Those are just 2 examples of people who have a list of consistent personality traits with one glaring paradox. As an exercise, during the class, I had everyone write a list of consistent personality traits and one huge paradox. It was an interesting discussion and certainly something to think about as authors create their characters. You can develop interesting characters by adding a paradox to contradict their consistent personalities.


Cindy (C.L.) Beck said...

Some days, the computer hates me. I know I left a comment here before but the machine must have ate it.

Just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed this post on paradoxes in our characters, and plan to refer to it often.