ACTION! -Motions for your CharacterA Lesson by TopHatGirl
Repetitive motions and speech.
Note: The previous lesson has been deleted and revised since the old one was so goddamn awful. This is the new one. Hopefully it's better.
Everyone has their set of quirks. Sometimes it's a force of habit, other times a person has been doing it since they cartwheeled out of the womb. People are complex, and we tend to have a set of motions that we don't even know about.
When characters are talking, they move. In the Magic Treehouse series, the main character pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose so much that the reader wondered if there was even a nose left. In A Series of Unfortunate Events Violet would tie up her hair in a ribbon whenever she started to invent. These quirks make a character seem real, instead of just talking heads. If you find yourself writing a long chunk of dialogue, it's better to break it up with action.
Actions can also reveal a lot about personality. Ever head of 'show, don't tell'? It's writing advice that experienced authors often give. It's a good frame of mind. Instead of saying 'he was angry', show us that he was angry. Which is better?
Tony was sad, so he left.
Tony felt his eyes welling up with tears, so he quickly ducked his head down, ashamed. "I'm just gonna leave, then," he muttered, leaving swiftly so no one could see his red face.
What you can also do is foreshadow Tony's actions beforehand. You can tell us that Tony doesn't like to cry, and then show us later. It's developing his character and creating an arch at the same time.
Repetitive motions are easy to use if you know how to keep it simple. There's also nothing wrong with being cliche: Cheerleaders can pop gum, teens can roll their eyes, and kids can stomp their feet. Consistency will make the reader recognize your character easily.
Revealing traits through actions is the sign of a strong writer! Keep this in mind when you're fleshing out your character.
Added on February 3, 2010
Last Updated on May 21, 2013
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