Saturday, 7 December 2013

Creating Character Dynamics – Part 1


This isn’t about creating dynamic characters, but rather how writers create character dynamics.
In other words, it’s the way characters work with and against each other within the story. It’s the dynamics of characters and their relationships with each other that interest the reader and keep them engaged.

It’s about setting up the conflicts with and between characters; it’s about ways that characters actually interact with each other, their actions and reactions, their thoughts and emotions. It’s about ways of bringing the characters to life for your reader through in-depth characterisation.
But how do you get your characters to spark off one another in the first place?  How do you get them to simmer together, for instance, or to antagonise each other or fight one another? 

Writers should first understand the mechanics of character dynamics if they want to create it within their stories. A writer has to enable the subtle undercurrents of complex character relationships to affect their personalities in such a way that it impacts on their actions and emotions and what they say to each other.
But how does a writer achieve that?

The answer to that lies in real life. Some people easily ‘click or gel’ with other people, even those they have only just met. There is affinity. Their personalities complement each other; they may share the same traits or interests, they may form an instant bond etc.  It directly affects our personalities when we’re with such people; we generally have a positive and happy outlook, we’re at ease with them. 
Conversely, there are also people we simply cannot get along with. Personalities ‘clash’, because there is zero affinity or interest. This has a negative effect on our personality, and generally we’re unhappy with these people and feel uncomfortable in their presence.

The same is true for fiction, and that’s what creates the working dynamics between characters. Think about how you act, react and behave with people, whether friends, family or people you don’t like, think about what you say to them.
Not all people will agree. Not all people will get along – this is where conflict plays an important role within character dynamics, whether in real life of fiction.

The high and low points that you create in your stories will directly affect how characters behave with each other.
Here’s a simple example: you have a group of characters caught up in a disaster. (It could be a fire, a storm, an earthquake…anything). The thread of the story already dictates they must act together to help each other survive because of the environment they’re in. It also creates the perfect cauldron of conflict because not every character will agree, not every character will like each other. One will think he’s better than another. One will be more frightened than the others and so on.

Already there is tension and conflict, which will create arguments and clashes. The environment is adding to that tension. Emotions will be high. The characters will each act and react differently.
In simple terms, a character’s responses to various conflicts – their thoughts, emotions, actions and reactions, their behaviours – have a direct impact on those around them.  This is what character dynamics is about.

It’s these underlying forces which create interest, tone and atmosphere for readers, because they are sharing everything that goes on with each character.
In fact, they are sharing the character dynamics that you, as a writer, have created for them.

Next week: Creating Character Dynamics Part 2.

2 comments:

  1. I found this article incredibly interesting and helpful. I'm currently writing a study on character dynamics and stumbled upon this by chance. Thank you for the wonderful advice!

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