As authors, we need to know everything about our characters. Most people have relationships and our characters should as well. How do your characters get on with their families? What kind of friends do they have? How do they react when a family member needs help? Are they exasperated, but pitch in? Or do they distance themselves. Are they the one everyone turns to for help? Do they do all the helping or do they always need the help.
Such questions are the stuff all authors need to ask bout their characters. Is the character’s family life harmonious or dysfunctional? How do they interact with their family? Inserting small bits of family life into a character’s activity or even just in conversation can tell readers a lot. It could be as little as one line in a chapter that can bring out an aspect of the character which can mean information on who that character is. It can be done easily enough. Look at this possibility:
I was late. As I finished dressing and tripping over my shoes, my cell phone rang. I looked at the caller ID on the phone. My mother. Great, another half hour harangue on why I haven’t produced and grandchildren for her. Didn’t she realize how complicated dating is?
That tells you the character is stressed about dating. It also indicates that the character and her mother have a contentious relationship. Just a small bit of information squeezed into the activity. Maybe the character was just getting off work after a long day. Maybe she was about to find a body. Either way, you’ve indicated what kind of character she is. That’s important. It makes the character seem more real to your readers. It can make them sympathize with her or even with her mother. Here’s another example:
I looked at the caller ID. Jimmy. What mess had he gotten into now? My brother was reliable in only one way — getting into trouble and dragging the rest of us in with him. I canceled the call. Not this time. I continued my run to my office.
That’s the way to indicate how the character reacts to the people in her family. Friendships can go along the same line, although mostly we can choose our friends. Give the relationships with family and friends little plugs in the action. You don’t need to psychoanalyze your characters, but give them relationship challenges. All you have to do is give them some frustration or even loving and supportive relationships. Then add in snippets of interaction between the character and family members. A sentence here and there can reveal a lot about a character. You don’t need to create scenes to show the relationships, just intersperse some interaction here and there in the story, wherever they may fit. That’s all there is to it.
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