While preparing for Eldest’s graduation, we’re painting over the fingerprints, shoe scuffs and general grime that accumulates over the years. Picking out colors isn’t always easy to do. Colors deepen and change as the bright morning light falls into the shadows of night, and not all the colors we love look good when painted side by side.
We paint our walls to evoke emotional satisfaction. The laundry room is bright and cheerful or subtle and soothing–a nod to the torturous chore of washing clothes and a firm attempt to cheer the laundry person up. Bedrooms induce sleep. Kitchens sparkle. Living rooms wrap around us like a cocoon, making us feel at home.
As writers, we paint our characters in the same way. We provide them with a personality and a voice. We paint them soothing or sensitive or joyous or angry. We give them distinct colors to portray an individual that readers can love or hate, root for or fear, cry over or rejoice in their demise. In essence, we paint an emotional connection between our characters and our audiences.
And like a freshly painted room, we need to accessorize to create robust, multifaceted characters. A red hand towel in an earth tone bathroom to energize us. Flowing curtains in a boldly painted room to highlight the softer side of life. A jock who listens to classical music, or a religious police officer who turns to God and not the stereotypical bottle.
All this while keeping in mind that colors change and deepen as the day goes on. All this while keeping in mind that characters deepen and change as the novel goes on.
What kind of painter are you, deliberate or impulsive? How do you consciously paint characters with distinct voices and personalities? How do you show the deepening of characterization as your novel progresses?
Think about your current manuscript’s MC: what color is s/he? Was this purposeful on your behalf? If you added a splash of color, what would it be and why? If your MC is rainbow-colored, does s/he feel chaotic? Can you tone her/him down? Should you?
Curious minds want to know.