Friday, February 10, 2012


Your reputation--and the personalities of those in question--affects how people treat you. It defines who you know and your ability to obtain things from them. As writers we need to know our characters reputations; to recognize who knows them, why, and their opinions about them considering their knowledge of them; knowledge they acquire from interactions with the character and gossip from others.

Suppose you have a character who is an esteemed contralto in high school Madrigals; she can flawlessly hit even the tenor notes and is always in tune. The choir and drama kids all love her; even most of the band students know her name. But does the athletic program know who she is? Do future science majors even know what Madrigals is? She may find herself respected in one setting but invisible in another.

I have a character right now who’s high class in a secret organization. As the MC explores this organization the people he meets have worked with or at least heard about the character. The MC comes to find that he is seen within the organization as the ambitions ‘dog’ of their leader. Others outside of the organization however see him as a meddling child who is getting involved in things he doesn’t understand—when in all reality he understands more than they do.

Our contralto’s social network can allow her to get certain things within her program but when alone and invisible in math or even at home she has less chance to succeed comfortably and may have a loss of confidence. Similarly my character’s social network allows him to help the MC get certain things within the organization but can also weigh him down when they’re travels lead them places where he is seen negatively.

When outlining, remember to include your characters’ reputations. The people they have influenced and the things they have done in the past should give them depth and affect their relationships and the plot. Remember also to have layers; characters will have close friends that know everything about them, other friends who can’t completely define those deeper things but see hints of them and know the more advertised characteristics, acquaintances that may have varying general ideas about them, and enemies with maybe completely other inferences.

I apologize if this is disorganized and doesn’t flow; for some reason I am very distracted right now… Hope I got my point across and this helps someone :)


Erin Shakespear said...

Excellent post. And it totally made sense. :)

Great things to ponder. Thanks!

Julie Daines said...

Nice. Thanks for the reminder of another way to add depth to our characters.