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What’s in Character – Physical

Last time we gave your new character a core personality. If you have completed your research on your character type, you should have several pages of material that will help you in the days to come. However, there is much more to a character than their core personality. Today, we will give them some physical characteristics. As we work through this topic, remember that physical appearance is only the window dressing for your character.

When the chromosomes came together to create your character, there were two sets. make a decision as to whether your character has an X and a Y or two X’s. Depending upon your story, a different gender for your character can change the whole look and feel of the story. Writing cross-gender can be interesting for the writer. Some writers feel more comfortable using their own gender for the protagonist. It seems natural and can be somewhat easier. However, we’re not talking about you, we are talking about your character here. Other writers feel the gender of a character makes no difference. I agree that actions during the story can be accomplished by either gender. However, we are talking about the effects of gender on character development. Based on the personality type, how would the character be different, other than plumbing, if they were a different gender?

The potential race of your character can play a huge role in the way they see and interact the world. Once again don’t just consider race alone. How would the core personality respond to the effects of being a different race. As with gender, any race can act and interact any way the writer wishes. Stepping outside stereotypes can be very interesting and beneficial to the uniqueness of the story. I know of a particular author that chose to write about a Dark Elf, one of the most despised creatures in all fantasy. That character is now one of the most recognized and popular in the genre. Differences in racial morphology, especially if you are writing fantasy, can give the character a very unique perspective. More of morphology later.

The age of you character comes in two distinct varieties, actual and projected. Both can play differing roles in character building. Actual age should be considered during many character building stages. It is especially important to consider when building the layers which include life experiences and traumatic events. A child experiencing the death of a friend may deal with it differently than an adult. consider the core personality as well and things get twisted even more. For instance, how would a thinking extrovert child react to seeing its best friend killed in a drive-by shooting? Now make you character an adult sensitive introvert. How would they respond?

I will say two things about physical attractiveness. First and most important, attractiveness is in the eye of the beholder. Ever hear that before? Second, and this relates directly to the first one, a vast majority of people are average looking. That’s by definition. So, consider not only how your character looks, but what they find attractive in others. Most of us see our own physical flaws more clearly than anyone else. We also tend to not see or ignore the physical flaws in those we care about. Decide how your character’s personality type will view their own physical appearance. How will they react to those they find unattractive. Will they react with pity, arrogance, compassion, etc.

From the writer’s point of view, the general attractiveness of the character is not as important as the actual physical features. Face shape, body shape, eyes, hair, ears, complexion and any combination thereof can influence the character and the reader. What do you see when I give this description.

The man was a barrel with legs. A large round bald head sat squarely on his shoulders. A roll of fat protruded on top of his collar where his neck should have been. The roll disappeared into four chins in front with a thin black mustache and goatee framing thin lips.

How would you react to this character? How does this character see himself? Now place this physical description on a few different personality types and see what you get.

Now let’s add one more layer. Take this man ad put him in a $1,000 three-piece suit and $500 shoes. Does your view of him change? Now let’s say he is wearing a long purple robe with a jeweled crown on his head. How about a Speedo and a sunburn? Ouch, that even hurt my eyes. Sorry.

How the character dresses and how they groom themselves can also be affected by that pesky personality type. Are they meticulous? Are they flashy? Are they a slob? Why?

Okay, so far we have given the character a base personality. We have determined their gender, race, and age. We have decided on their physical appearance and what physical attributes they find attractive. And, we have dressed them appropriately for their personality. So far, so good. These are some of the tags and traits the writer can use to help the reader see the character.

I caution you. If you stop here, like most writer’s do, you miss the things about a character which are most important to your character and potentially, your story.

In the next post we will add other natural environmental factors such as birth order, family issues, education, talents, love language, and self-esteem.

If you are building a character as we go along, please let me know how it’s going. I would love to know. Also, if you would like me to dive deeper on any portion of this exercise, I would be happy to do so.

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Posted by on March 4, 2013 in What's in Character

 

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Tribute to my “daughter” Libby

I woke up Monday and went about my morning routine. That is, of course, until I went downstairs to feed Libby. But there was no meow saying “Good morning, I’m hungry”. There were no bowls to fill with water or dry food. There were no pee pads to pick up and throw away. There was no furry little face looking at me through the bars of the gate. Only the darkness and silence of the family room at 5:30 AM. You see, Friday, after I got home from work, my wife and I took Libby to the Vet for the last time. I had no intention of putting her down when we left the house. But, I had no idea how far she had deteriorated in the last three months.

Libby was the last of my three “children”. For the past twenty-two years, there has been at least one and for a long time three feline members of my family. My middle child, past away from kidney disease at the age of seventeen. My eldest child succumbed to fluid on the lungs at age 22. And my youngest, Libby, left us Friday night due to complications from thyroid disease.

Libby came to us on a spring morning. I found her hiding under the house. We call her our unwed mother because at the ripe old age of nine months, she was VERY pregnant. She looked like she had swallowed a softball. She was half-starved and was the most pitiful creature you ever saw. We fed her for a day or two and then had to make a decision. She was ready to deliver and we were on our way out-of-town for the Memorial Day weekend. I did not want to leave her and come back to a litter of kittens or worse. Based on her obvious malnutrition, I doubted the kittens would be healthy. The alternative was to take her to the animal shelter and place a finder’s hold on her. She would be examined, fed, and cared for until we could get back from vacation. We could then make a final decision on whether to bring a third cat into our home. The down side was, if she had the litter while we were gone, we would not be told the fate of the kittens unless we placed a hold on them as well. This I’m told is standard procedure for animal shelters. This decision was almost as difficult as having Libby put to sleep 18 years later. We finally chose to only hold Libby and prayed the Shelter would do what was best for the kittens.

When we returned from our trip, we prepared the house of the new arrival. Our existing children were locked in one area of the house with their food, water and litter boxes and the rest of the house would be free for Libby to explore for a few days until she was adjusted to her new surroundings.

When we picked Libby up from the shelter, she was a different cat. She had indeed delivered while we were gone. (That is how I wish to think it happened. I do not know what happened,nor do I want to know.) She was five pounds lighter than when we dropped her off. Half of her body weight had been kittens! But, she was healthy. We paid for vaccinations and care. Then, we took her home.

Over the next few days, there was a lot of sniffing under doors and paws being stretched under doors trying to reach each other. Libby roamed the house at will and chose to mostly, ignore the bedroom. There were obviously two very interested felines wanting to find out who had invaded their territory. Finally, on Friday night we let the three of them see each other for the first time. There was a few minutes of hissing and posturing with me standing by to separate them if necessary. Fortunately, a pecking order was soon arrived at and peace returned to the household.

I treated the cats like family. Each had their own food and water bowls. Each had their own litter box. My wife and I made sure we spent quality time with each one every day. It may have been wrestling with the big male, or having them chase a light around the room, or maybe just giving them a special massage of their own. Whatever it was they each returned to attention they received many times over.

I treated the cats like family and they reciprocated. After a serious car accident that left me on my back in a recliner for thirteen weeks, my children would take turns getting up on the recliner and laying, spread eagle, over my shattered knee. The warmth of their little bodies and their energy covered my knee. The added weight also helped during rehab exercises. 🙂  I believe to this day, that they were a big part of my knee healing. They knew I was hurt and made sure that at least one of them was with me 24/7 for entire recovery.

Sometime in the future, we will again add a couple of furry members to our family. Once the pain of loss has subsided and we are ready, we will find two felines who need us as much as we need them. Until then, I will remember, “Little Mr.”, “The Lover”, and the “Unwed Mother” and know they are waiting for my wife and I at the rainbow bridge.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2012 in Musings and Odd Thoughts

 

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52 weekends

This week I will celebrate another year of existence. Another 52 weekends gone that I can never get back. They went by so fast. How did I spend them?

Weekends spent visiting family members who were ill, in the hospital, or at funerals – 10

Weekends spent visiting family members who were not ill – 9

Weekend spent volunteering for master gardener or archery events – 6

Weekends spent preparing for and traveling for business – 4

Weekends spent in the garden – 7

Weekends spent at the cabin (since 6-1-12, cleaning and repairing) – 5

Weekends spent fishing or hunting – 4

Weekends I cannot remember what I did (it’s an age thing) – 7

Overall, I’m okay with my choices of activities. Although, a note to my family – Let’s try to reduce the first item to zero this coming year.

You may be asking, “What is it with weekends?”

A year or so ago I read an article about the importance of spending your weekends wisely. You are given a finite number of them. If the average person lives to be 75, they have 3,900 weekends assigned to them. This number can never increase. It can only decrease as the weekends get used up. Now let’s say that until you are 18 you have little control over your weekends as your parents have a larger say in what your choices are. That leaves you with 2,964 weekends to spend however you choose to. Now at 18, that seems like a huge number. Nothing but time on your hands. When you reach 40, that number has dropped to 1,820. At 50, you have 1,300. At 60, 780. At 70, 260!

On one hand that is a lot of weekend choices to make. On the other hand, how many of your weekends are either planned for you, you are forced to do something unexpected, or they just slip by without a thought? It kind of scares me that 15% of my weekends went by and I could not tell you how I spent them. Was I productive? Did I write as much as I wanted to? Did I enjoy them? Or, did I waste them?

Don’t get me wrong here. I don’t plan my entire year of weekends in advance. However, I have started to question how I spend my weekends. Before I agree to tie up a weekend, I think about how else I could spend that weekend. I do plan a few weekends a year based on hunting seasons, archery or master gardener events, and fishing openers.

I know enough to understand that life will throw unexpected things at you (Please refer to the first group of weekends above). I am glad that I was able to be there and support my family. It was my choice to be there. In my opinion, I used those weekends wisely. The point is, you get a limited number of those precious days when you don’t have to be at work trying to make a living. How many you have left is a mystery. Remember, we will not all be granted 3,900 weekends. How you choose to spend them is up to you. I intend to spend a lot more of mine sitting on the deck at the cabin, writing!

How are you going to spend you next 52 weekends?

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2012 in Musings and Odd Thoughts

 

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