4. Deeper Dimensions of Human Characterization
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An Illustrative Scene
The following passage from my novel, Dragons in the Stars, may serve to illustrate small ways in which you can bring your characters to life over the course of a scene. First read the passage, and then we'll look at some of the specific pieces.
In this excerpt, Jael is with the dragon Highwing, who is allowing her to peer through a magical window into the past. Her past. She sees herself and her captain, Mogurn, at the spaceport where he first hired her. But instead of just reviewing her memory of the event, she is seeing the events happen as though from the viewpoint of a fly on the wall. She observes actions, and qualities, that make Mogurn's character - and her own - clear to herself (and to the reader). Mogurn is talking to a spaceport crew steward, who is helping him to find a pilot. Here it is:
Okay, what's happening here?
This first characterization of Mogurn is from her immediate awareness of Mogurn as she has come to know him. It's not until a few sentences further that we start to see the actions that betrayed something of his character very early on.
What's the tip-off here that Mogurn can't be trusted? What does Jael see about herself as she looks at the Jael of the past? Did that earlier Jael notice what sort of a man Mogurn was? Was she alert to the danger implied by his behavior?
Had she suspected even then that she was about to take her first steps into trouble? Or was she too young and na´ve? And what else about Mogurn? What are his next actions?
Jael understands now what she didn't realize then. This is the device he will use to enslave her.
He grins. The steward winks. What do you think happened when they touched hands? A deal made? A bribe?
Course content copyright © 2005 Jeffrey A. Carver