Small characters.

Landon Erp's picture
Submitted by Landon Erp on Mon, 2006-05-22 23:02

It's been a while since this forum saw any traffic so I thought I'd shake it out and dust it off and see if I could draw any traffic with a question.

I'm working on a story with several characters who don't have very long within the story to make an impression (it is a murder mystery after all).

As I've spent time trying to wrack my brain trying to figure out scenes that get across exactly the character points I've wanted them to have developed and become known for I'm having a difficult time. But it is reminding me of a few characters and scenes from Atlas Shrugged.

Specifically Tony the Wet Nurse, and Phillip and Mother Reardon. I don't think any of these characters has more than 20 sentances of dialogue (hell I think the Reardons might not have that much between them) and if my memory serves me I don't think any of the above had more than a few paragraphs describing them otherwise. Yet you come away from the book with a fairly good understanding of the core of each of these characters even though the time spent with them seems negligable compared to that of any of the other characters. I'm not saying you understand them better necessarily but just that you do in fact understand them when it seems questionable that you were given enough to make that judgement.

I guess what I'm trying to get at is I'd like to try discussing the mechanics of this skill of writing very little and getting a lot across.

Anyone up for this?


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Lots of good points

Landon Erp's picture

Lots of good points.

First off it's a she (for some reason I'm way more comfortable writing females, go figure) Eye

I can see working the contrast in, seeing as I have a large group of diverse characters and they're trapped in a workplace together (not literally but for the sake of the story)constantly dealing with each other. So just sit back let a few scenes around the workplace just happen (maybe moving the plot along in the process) and it should work itself out.

I'll also have to check out Somerset Maugham. Though I've been bad about follow up on reading recomendations. Someone recomended Agatha Christie for understanding the mechanics of mysteries almost a year ago and after about two or three more recomendations I'm finally reading "Ten Little Indians" (and enjoying it) but I'll have to keep it in mind.

Inking is sexy.

Somerset Maugham

Phil Howison's picture

Somerset Maugham was excellent at capturing unusual characters in short paragraphs or stories. I'm currently reading Volume Two of his collected stories. There's a lot to learn from, especially if you're interested in characterization using carefully selected details.

The other reason that we

Andrew Couper's picture

The other reason that we have such an easy grasp of the Reardon Family is the contrast with Hank.

We see Hank first and get a lot of his ideals early on. Hank's dilemma or indifference to the family position fleshes out the secondary characters.

Therefore stay with "your perfect friend" he will write it for you. Smiling


Thanks Claudia. I think

Landon Erp's picture

Thanks Claudia. I think that's the direction I'll be going.


Inking is sexy.

Or they could bury a body

Wes's picture

Or they could bury a body together.

I see

Olivia's picture

I guess the perfect best friend type would ALWAYS tell the truth about you. That can be quite challenging and not especially stereotypical.

I can see that, I've

Landon Erp's picture

I can see that, I've actually been trying to work that way with a couple of the characters myself.

The main problem I have is that I have one character who is based around the "perfect best friend" stereotype. It's hard to have a character always be just fun and nice and not cross over into annoying.

But thanks for answering. I'll try to keep that in mind.


Inking is sexy.

Yeah me.

Olivia's picture

Hi Landon,

It's a matter of always creating a scene that quintessentially reflects the character's core motives.

Phillip is ALWAYS bitching about his need and other's wealth.

Mother Reardon is ALWAYS condescending in attitude to Hank, constantly saying how selfish and uncaring he is.

Lillian is ALWAYS watchful, cold and speaking in double meanings.

Basically, they are one track minded which is how we get such a lasting impression of them from Ayn's writing.

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