Painting Characters with Voice and Personality

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.

 

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3 responses to “Painting Characters with Voice and Personality

  1. My current manuscript’s character is kind of earthy toned, browns and greens (though I had to think for a sec….good analogy!) The course of the novel itself is adding some cold ice blue, and some dashes of red, as she learns and grows. Now the secondary character (who is about to walk onscreen, in fact) is more of a wildcard, meant to be a bit of a counterpoint, in fact.

  2. Fantastic post! Thanks for this. I’m going to take a paintbrush and tackle my WIP. I really like this analogy. My MC is definitely red, surrounded by cooler characters but I think there needs to be some greater contrasts. Going to splash some colours 🙂

    • Have fun splashing, Suzanne!

      Characters, to me, are the most compelling part of a book. It’s always fun to see the depth of them. Red sounds interesting on many levels. Best luck and thanks so much for stopping by!

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