Was referred from local child protection agency. Seemed very angry and hostile at the beginning of the interview, but seemed more settled once I had indicated that her involvement with the agency was to be on a voluntary basis only, and that she could choose to leave whenever she wanted.
Subscribe to our FREE email newsletter and download free character development worksheets! David Corbett April 12, The source and exact nature of the curious phenomena we refer to as characters remains something of a mystery, but the craft of characterization is not.
Certain techniques are required to will our characters to life. We need to draw on the unconscious, memory, the imagination and the Muse until our characters quicken, assume clear form and, with hope, begin to act of their own accord. Can this process—so inherent to the success of any novel—really be condensed into a single method?
In my experience as both writer and writing instructor, the answer is, to some extent, yes. The key is first to understand what your characters require from you in order to come to life, and then to determine how you can draw on your best available resources to give them what they need.
A Driving Need, Desire, Ambition or Goal The fundamental truth to characterization is that characters must want something, and the stronger the want, the more compelling the resulting drama.
This is because desire intrinsically creates conflict, the primordial goo in which character is formed. At the start of the story, Blanche has lost her family home and has been left with nowhere to stay. Desperate, she has come to New Orleans to find her sister, Stella, and ask to be taken in. This is a perfect demonstration that simply by giving the character a deep-seated need or want, you can automatically create conflict, for the world is not designed to answer our desires as easily as we might hope.
Secrets inform us of what our characters have to lose, and why. Drawing on the example of Blanche Dubois, her secret is that through drink and illicit sexual liaisons, she has become so emotionally and physically dissipated she could not hold on to the family home.
We are our own best source for understanding secrets. A Contradiction We all know people who are both shy and rude, cruel but funny, bigoted but protective. This complexity, which seems to particularly manifest itself during times of stress or conflict, is what can make a person inherently unpredictable, setting the stage for the kind of surprising behavior that can keep readers enthralled, wondering what might happen next.
This is an evolutionarily adaptive trait; it helps in analyzing the environment for threats.
Vulnerability Nothing draws us into a character more than her vulnerability. We may also sometimes be repelled or frightened, but either way, the fact of the matter is that injury to another person instantly triggers a strong response.
He is afraid of being found out. Or it may come from the intensity of his need or want—because, as we all know, desire can render us naked in a fundamental way. For your character, the ambition and focus inherent in a strong desire can imply some form of inner strength, while at the same time rendering the character vulnerable to being deprived of what he most wants.
In other words, needs or desires, secrets, contradictions and vulnerability are almost always interconnected. Some stories begin with the characters, of course, and the narrative emerges from an exploration of their needs, their defenses, their secrets and contradictions, or some problem they face.
We might wonder how many uniquely memorable world-weary detectives there can be, for example—and yet every year at least one more seems to emerge from the wave of crime novels crashing onto bookstore shelves. It takes skill and insight to breathe life into stock characters, something too often dismissed by those who disdain genre fiction as inferior.
So how do we flesh out our characters when they arise from the needs of our stories, or when they otherwise lack the specificity, uniqueness or power necessary to engage a reader or the writer? The best inspiration often comes from within us—and from our experiences with the people in our lives.
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• This letter is a template for treatment providers to use when courts or other criminal justice and child welfare agencies require patients to stop using medications such as methadone, buprenorphine-naloxone (Suboxone), or injectable naltrexone (Vivitrol).
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