Home > Life, Mentors, Thoughts for the Day, Work-related, Writing and Poetry > Some of the Easiest Characters Around

Some of the Easiest Characters Around

Jack Russell Terrier with ball.

Jack Russell Terrier with ball. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever struggled to come up that character to add comic relief to a story? What about the little kid who holds the hearts of everyone in a five mile radius with the look on his face and the expression in his eyes? Or, the old lady down the street who is always there with a kind word and an understanding presence?

These are all common characters, so common they’ve become near stereotypes. But how do you create freshness to a stereotype without removing what makes them appealing and affective?

Use a different model for your character. Let’s say you’ve chosen to have an old lady for your story. She’s going to live next door to the family you’re writing about. Let’s also assume that that’s all you know about this character.

One way to get a fresh perspective on this character is to change your own perspective. The only thing you know for certain is that this character is old and lives nearby. With this in mind think of others that could be old and live nearby.

  1. An aged golden retriever that’s been faithful and gentle all her life. Her slightly coppery locks have grayed. Her step is more measured now. Her ability to rush is curtailed with age. She is always available for a hug, and she thinks nothing of spending an afternoon with anyone who needs a companion, to sooth and ease a hurt.
  2. An older Scot Terrier that doesn’t take guff from anyone for any reason. Female she might be, but tough, and knows her own mind. Short legs don’t keep her from taking long walks each day; even if they tire easily, she’ll push through to the end.
  3. An older mare that’s birthed her last foal and been put to graze and grow complacent in her last years. She stands at the fence looking to the west, her eyes seeing the wild herds that used to roam the plains and mountains, whose king stallion stands guard at the edge of his circled harem.

You choice of character models are endless, when you realize that all creatures as they age share common traits. By removing the “animal” from the model and concentrating on the behavior, the visible traits, your own story character takes on a new dimension. You could find these characters in your own home.

Remember that comic relief character? Can you think of models to give you a handle on such a role in your story? Here are three that might work.

  1. A Jack Russell Terrier. That’s the hyper pup on springs. If you don’t laugh at the antics of one of these little clowns, there’s no hope for your character.
  2. Chickens are comic creatures, often overlooked for their relief value. Watch a small flock during evening feeding of veggie scraps. Or, watch them tussle over the use of the swing or perch. They also have personalities.
  3. Wild birds during nesting season. They are a hoot; stealing each other’s nesting materials, poking each other, squabbling, all while trying to attract a mate.

Writers must look outside their usual views in order to keep their perspectives out of stereotype territory. One of the surest ways of doing that is to create different criteria for developing characters. Substituting aspects and traits of animals is one of the easiest methods for ensuing uniqueness.

Give yourself time in the park to watch those creatures that frequent it; ducks and geese on the pond, squirrels racing from tree to tree, or birds arguing back and forth. Go to a quiet wooded area and sit down next to a small stream. Wait in silence. You’ll find more inspiration that you know what to do with if you’re patient.

Come back and tell me of your adventures. Let me know how this process works for you. We can always discuss what you learn along the way.

Until then, a bientot,

Claudsy

 

 

 

 

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  1. June 16, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Claudsy –
    I think this idea of stretching our minds in terms of who our characters our in our stories is a superb idea! I immediately placed this blog post in my Evernote so that I will not forget this idea. Tanks for also giving great examples!

    I have a surprise for you. Hop on over to my blog post http://www.bendsintheroad.com/we-love-blogging/. As you read the post, watch for your name. You are an amazing and gifted poet and story teller – and Blogger! Hope this surprise gives you a smile!

    Monique

    • claudsy
      June 16, 2012 at 4:25 pm

      Two awards for me?! Monique, that’s amazing. Thank you so much. Of course, I shall honor your gifting of these.

      I’m happy you enjoy coming here to see what I’ve written. That’s truly all the reward I want or expect. You’ve made a graying day a whole lot brighter. Thanks again.

  2. carrieboo33
    June 17, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Having a Jack Russell myself, I have to say — excellent canine idea! 🙂

  3. claudsy
    June 17, 2012 at 9:09 am

    I’ve always found them to be a loping, leaping, lizardly bundle of ideas myself. If you want to find other ideas, think of armadillos, porcupines, chipmunks, myna birds, etc. So much variety, so little time.

    Thanks, Carrie. Glad I could remind you of the fun you have in your own living room.

  4. Veronica Roth
    June 17, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Great advice Claudsy. I do this all the time. Especially love watching crows interact with other animals. (They have friendly games of tag with the seagulls in Vancouver). I have a few friends who own Jack Russells and they belong to the “I survived my Jack Russell society”. Those pups are a handful but absolutely so full of character.

    • claudsy
      June 17, 2012 at 1:02 pm

      Thanks, Veronica. So glad someone else uses this technique. I’ve been around my share of “Jacks” and can relate to those bundles of never-ending moving and excitement.

    • claudsy
      June 18, 2012 at 8:48 pm

      Definitely. My mom had a pet crow for a long time. He was his own person and quite a character. We certainly missed his laughter and conversation when he wasn’t thre any longer.

  5. June 18, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Claudsy, our neurotic Siamese cat–a foundling, which explains a lot; he’s terrified of small children and thunder–would make a great character! I love this idea. Will keep for future reference.

    • claudsy
      June 18, 2012 at 8:46 pm

      Glad to be of help, Gerry. Sometimes one of the easiest tools around is also sitting right next to you.

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