Supplement to my article, Oh, The Humanity! on Magnificent Nose.
In the article, I talked about how I make my characters more human by exploring how they’d react in mundane situations, and taking advantage of all of their senses. So in this blog post, I’ll go through that exercise for one of my main characters in my latest novel, Broken Blade.
Quick background: Vincere is an assassin who can no longer hurt anyone without the same injury being inflicted back upon himself. He begins the story in that state. But what about all the little things that make him who he is?
Let’s start with one of the theoretical situations I mentioned in the article.
Vincere falls into a puddle of mud.
Reaction: He could feel the squelching, oozing dirt seeping through his pants, into the very pores of his skin like some parasite. Standing up, he took off his jacket, wrapped it around his hand, and meticulously scraped the mud from his pants. He winced at the thought of the fine material being dirtied, but it had already been splashed from the fall and would need to be cleaned anyway. When he was satisfied that he was suitably cleaned, he hurried off to find the nearest bathhouse. Even if it would never be near enough.
Analysis: Hates getting dirty. Doesn’t like things that ooze. Not one to make a big fuss, but deals with things quietly and on his own.
Ways this can be manifested in the story: Killing methods must be quick and clean. Room is tidy and spotless.
I’ll do this with a few different situations, though I may not write it out in detail each time – the above is the thought process I go through.
The other example I’ll run through is his interests.
What music does Vincere enjoy listening to?
Music: Orchestral, complex choral music
Reasoning: He enjoys the layering of the pieces, and how they come together to make a piece of music. He will listen carefully for each of the parts. He also enjoys the sense of community, as they all require many people to create.
Ways this can be manifested in the story: Analytical – will sift through all information presented to him and come to his own conclusions. Loves observing crowds, big groups of people.
These may seem like silly little things, but as I work them into the story, they create a sense of person for Vincere beyond “bitter ex-assassin who doesn’t know what to do with his life”. I won’t explicitly state that he uses to use quick and clean killing methods because he hates getting dirty, but I’ll show the reader how he kills and let them come to that conclusion on their own. As long as I have a cohesive picture of who he is, my reader should be able to piece that together through his words and actions throughout the novel.
For in life, that’s how we find out about others. They usually won’t tell us they’re obsessively clean – they’ll simply keep their work desk or their living room spick and span. Or if they love being in crowds, they won’t tell us – they’ll be right in the midst. These are all the little actions or situations we pick up on, and that clue us in to their personality. And if you can introduce your characters in the same way, they will come across as much more of a person, and much less of an artificial construct.