Friday, March 22, 2013

Writing Exercise: How to Add Depth to Characters

Last week, our writing exercise was to build a character using one emotion as the center of the character. The character should be well rounded, showing various dimensions. The exercise specifies four dimensions:
  1. First dimension--the photograph: Physical appearance and characteristics, the stuff that makes a first impression.
  2. Second dimension--the video tape: What the character does, allowing the reader to infer some characteristics.
  3. Third dimension--the stage play: Traits that come out when the character interacts or reacts to different circumstances, showing the character's intelligence, sensitivity, social type, general outlook and educational background.
  4. Fourth dimension--participatory theater: Traits that are private, such as motivation and internal voice.
For more in depth description of these, see this post.

I chose the emotion of wonder, and wrote this...
Jim's eyes widened like the pale moon that hung in the sky. Again the adventure, again the adrenaline, again the anxiety. The race to the top is exciting every time and that night was the perfect night. 
He'd been racing to the top of the mountain for years. Find the best trails had been an adventure that had even greater edginess with the nocturnal change he had made. Following the trails in daylight had become old hat; the new challenge made the experience almost a new race, as if he was starting over from the beginning.
Old, easy obstacles became new delights. Shimmying up the 35 foot crack was easy when the moonlight landed right, but often the inky shadows wouldn't show the best toe holds. One night the moon was sitting at the top of the crack, making him feel as if the mountain would take him there.
He began his run up the easy incline wondering if the moon would be there again. Was that in the spring of the fall last time? He wasn't sure. The rush of running and remembering and anticipating shifted his concentration from all those thens to the here and now.
A new spice had been added recently. He'd found some competition. Another hill runner, Bob, had discovered the wonders of this mountain. Bob had been finishing a twilight struggle when Jim was just getting ready to ascend. They had a nice chat and thoughts of Bob vanished during that run. Until Jim came back to his car and found a note with contact information on it. What such an acquaintance had in store he did not know but Jim was thrilled to find out. They ran the hill together a few times until competitiveness had got the better of the relationship. Now they raced each other to see who could be the fastest.
Another newness had been laid on the mountain trails, like new fallen snow waiting for footprints in the morning. "Now there's an idea," thought Jim. "If only there was a moonlit, snow-covered night!" Jim smiled at the thought of something else to look forward to.
So I completely missed the physical description of Jim, which should have been easy to fit in. Otherwise, I feel I did alright. I might work on this story some more, like working out why Jim and Bob fell out.

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