Creating Character Dynamics – Part 2
Continuing our look at character dynamics (and not dynamic characters), we’ll explore the many ways of creating such dynamics so that the narrative gains greater dimension and depth.
As explained in Part 1, remember that real life supports much of what writers learn from and incorporate within their writing. And clever writers will exploit it for all its worth. That means conversations, movements, interactions, reactions, behaviours and many varied perspectives all come into play.
Character dynamics revolves around how characters interact with each other, and there are many factors that help create it:-
· Dialogue – what characters say to each other and how they say it.
· Conflicts between characters also creates dynamics - the reader gets to see how characters act with and around each other
· Show a psychological perspective – what characters think and how their thoughts might affect others or impact the story arc and what emotions he or she might have.
· Show a physical perspective – a character’s movements made in reaction to others, or acting against other influences.
· Show actions and reactions – whether this is through dialogue, thoughts or physical actions, every action must have a reaction.
· Show the surrounding environment – what’s happening around the characters that influence all of the above?
Let’s look at these in more detail.
What characters say to each other says a lot about who they are, but even more so by the way they say it, to whoever they say it to. Intonation and pitch are great aspects of conversation, especially so with characters. It’s one of the simplest ways to create character dynamics.
Writers can use the tone and resonance of dialogue, and what is said, to get the characters to spark off each other. They could be arguing passionately, they could be screaming in hatred at each other, they could be whispering sweet things…whatever it is, dialogue is a great way to get character dynamics into the narrative.
Conflict creates emotions, mostly negative ones. We all know it is bread and butter to any storyteller because the potential for character dynamics is endless. And it’s all down to emotions.
Conflict creates emotion, such as dislike, hatred, loathing, unhappiness; fear etc., and is usually between protagonist and antagonist, so the potential for getting your characters to create ‘sparks’ is high.
Like dialogue, conflict is a great way for characters to interact, and a great way to produce lots of emotion.
A Psychological Perspective
As narrator, you need to let your readers know what your characters are really thinking, the emotions they feel when interacting with other characters, because insight is a wonderful thing for readers. It gets them closer to the characters, because they’re sharing the character’s intimate thoughts; their inner behaviour.
How character thoughts might affect their behaviour, and therefore those around them, is yet another way of creating character dynamics. A character may say one thing, but they could be thinking another thing entirely. This is great for creating subtle undercurrents between characters.
A Physical Perspective
Similar to a psychological perspective, the physicality of a character’s movements made in reaction to others, or acting against other influences, also conveys character dynamics.
The physicality doesn’t have to be overt. You can make it as subtle as you like. Either way, the reader will pick up on it. It could be as simple as where your characters are standing in proximity to each other. Are they close enough for eye contact, or are they standing apart? Perhaps one character’s height means he or she is able to establish dominance over the other? Are they gesturing, like real people do, or just standing there like statues?
Gestures and movements play an important part of creating character dynamics, so try not to overlook them.
Actions and Reactions
Remember that actions reveal character, therefore so do reactions. Every action must have a reaction; this is the whole point to character interaction. Without either, there is no character dynamics.
It’s the same in real life, when people react to others – whether it’s a reaction to something said or implied, or a reaction to something physical, like aggression or a physical attack, it’s about how that person responds.
It’s therefore important to show character reactions, responses and reflexes etc., because it enables momentum with the characters you’re working with, it reveals character and it also helps move the story forward.
You might ask what the surrounding environment has to do with creating character dynamics, and it’s a relevant question, but it has more to do with dynamics than writers realise.
Our environments form a background to life. Whatever we do, wherever we go, the surrounding environment is always there. So, in our character’s case, the environs form a backdrop to the story. It provides the reader with location, atmosphere and background.
Of course, the environment can be part of the story, for instance it could be about a giant storm, or a major flood, or an apocalyptic, searing heat, turning everything to desert.
In a nutshell, the right environment should support the dynamics of the story and the characters. It helps them interact. And when they interact, you get all of the above – dialogue, conflict, psychological and physical perspectives, actions and reactions.
There is more to character dynamics than meets the eye, but when you think about how and why your characters interact with each other, then you begin to understand the dynamic forces that help create great characters.
Next week: How does a flash forward work?