Sunday, April 26, 2009
More on imagery and branding characters...
Imagery can do so much for a story. It drops the reader into a scene by using the senses vividly, but it can also ‘brand’ your characters so that at any given time the reader knows who is on stage. How you may ask?
Characters in a story, like people in everyday life, have quirks, personality stamps, and habits that individualize them. It may be a phrase, dialect; something that character does routinely, a scent, the way they dress. You name it but individualizing your characters is a priority. Imagine if all the characters dressed the same, talked in the same dialect, etc. How boring would that be?
Some character traits from my novel, Curse of the Marhime.
Niko Ionesciu: He is the Hero and has a persistent habit of brushing his straight overly-long hair out of his face. His voice is a low, sexy timbre with a tiny hint of Eastern Europe accent. He is confident and definitely Alpha material. He has a boyish smile and a small scar on his upper lip that only proves to make him more desirable.
Pita Sedgwick: Heroine of the story. She is from the Northwest, American, and a wee bit naïve. She balks and gets nervous in the presence of handsome men. She tends to nervously ramble. Average height, light golden brown hair, nice figure-not overly thin or curvaceous. Pita is a bit more on the reserved side but will step up to aggression when pressed into a corner.
Tomas Stepes: Dark, brooding, Alpha male, Romanian with heavy accent but sensitive to Pita’s needs and protective. Tomas is Niko’s right hand within the pack. He has a habit of missing humor due to translation.
The purpose of individualizing characters is also to avoid dialogue tags in overabundance. If your reader can recognize a character by the way he/she talks, or mannerisms they use then dialogue tags can be cut to a bare minimum.
Another great way to break up tedious dialogue runs is to use ‘Beats’ also known as ‘side actions’ to show the reader what is going on within the scene while this great conversation is going on. Let the reader see what the characters are doing while they are talking.
Let me explain. The hero may be putting together a wall unit, while the heroine is handing him the parts he needs. All this detail helps to make the read real, draw the reader into your scene.
Perhaps the conversation is heated. The hero paces the room, while the heroine slams the dishes into a sink full of water then has to wipe up the mess. All this not only gives the reader the action but also indicates the mood of the scene.
Below is a short excerpt of Curse of the Marhime depicting Pita and Niko’s first meeting. Notice the imagery, actions, and dialogue contained within.
After two stopovers and one plane change, Pita
settled in for the next leg of the journey. She’d
finished her novel long ago and had stopped in one of
the airport shops in Toronto and picked up a couple
of magazines and another book.
Some passengers looked familiar, but many
faces were different now. Her seatmates, the elderly
couple, seemed to be gone or at least not seated
anywhere near her. This plane was a little smaller
and had only two seats on either side of the aisle, the
one next to her remained empty.
Absently, she fingered through one of the
magazines when someone plopped down beside her.
She glanced up into a face whose smile was so
infectious and openly shy, that she instantly found
herself returning the smile. “Hi.”
His hair was dark-blond and longish, not quite
shoulder length. Little crinkles formed at the
corners of his eyes when he smiled, and he had a
dimple on his chin. She had an urge to reach out and
touch a finger to that dimple. God, he is so cute. A
flush of heat exploded in her as her eyes locked onto
his hazel ones.
“Hello,” she said in return and tightened her
grip on the magazine. She wanted to reach up and
push his wayward hair out of his ruggedly handsome
face. And to make matters worse she wanted to kiss
that adorable lopsided smile right off his face. Oh my
god, get a grip. What is wrong with me?
“Don’t let me interrupt you.” He glanced down at
the magazine in her lap. “You were reading.”
Something seemed familiar about him, but she
couldn’t put a finger on it. Pita detected a slight
Eastern European accent. She blushed and
concentrated on closing the magazine in her lap to
regain her composure. Her reaction to him bordered
on odd, and she couldn’t even find the correct words
to describe it. Something tugged deep within her,
some primal response to this man. Bigger than lust.
It unhinged her.
“No, you’re not, interrupting, I mean… I was
just flipping through it waiting for takeoff for
the…um…the umpteenth time,” she smiled again,
hoping to conceal how he unnerved her.
“Yes. I’m from Montana.” Pita answered. Why is
it I turn into an idiot around good-looking men? Get
a grip. “My name is Pita.” She extended a hand to
He took it, and Pita felt an odd vibration, a rush
of…power? A surge shot straight up her arm that
washed into her torso. It was the strangest
sensation, not in any way painful, just odd. They
stared at each other for long seconds before he
answered. “I’m Nikolae Ionesciu, very nice to meet
you. Please, call me Niko.” Again, that shy
disarming smile. He had a small scar on his upper
lip but it only added to his good looks.
Pita blushed again and looked down into her
lap, so he wouldn’t notice. The jolt she felt from the
brief touch was compelling. It vibrated through her
arm like the aftershock of an electrical current. He’d
felt it too, she’d seen it in his eyes. She picked the
magazine off her lap and slipped it in the slot on the
seat in front of her for something to do. No denying
she was attracted to him, but the strange sensation
that passed between them had nothing to do with it.
She knew—no felt instinctively— without a doubt,
this was something entirely different.
“Where are you from? Your accent…” Pita
considered a moment. “Slavic? Perhaps somewhere
near Romania?” She guessed. “My best friend was
born there. Her parents have a similar accent.”
“I was born in Hungary but grew up in Northern
Romania just over the border between the two
countries.” He explained. “I travel between the
United States and Romania often these days.”
“That explains your almost perfect English.”
Pita grinned. She loved the husky timbre of his
voice. Its slightly raspy baritone caressed her
The stewardess passed by, advising everyone to
buckle their seatbelts, that the plane would be
taxiing for take off in a moment.
Pita busied herself with the seatbelt and locked
the little tray in place. Niko bent to place his
backpack under the seat in front of him then buckled
himself in. He pushed back the hair that had fallen
into his face when he’d bent down. Pita wondered
what it would be like to feel that hand touch her
face, her neck, slide down her...
Oh God, what is the matter with me?
The plane lurched forward and began its taxi to
the runway. She relaxed into the seat and waited for
the usual rush when the plane sped up and then left
the ground. Better to concentrate on that than what
she’d been thinking a moment ago.
“Here we go.” He commented.
“Hmmmm…” she responded glad that of all the
seats in the plane his was beside her. The plane
picked up momentum and lifted off the runway and
into the night.
I invite your comments. I hope this post is helpful and maybe even entices you to read my book. *grin*