Characters: what does one character know that another doesn’t?

truth jigsaw

They say the camera never lies, but it never tells the whole truth either. You think you can see what’s real but there are all sorts of things you can’t see just beyond the frame of the photograph and beyond the moment when the photograph is taken. That happy smiling person you can see may have troubles in their life that you know nothing about, that idyllic scene may have mountains of rubbish and a power plant just out of shot making it a nightmare wasteland instead of a beautiful landscape.

There is always something missing even in the fragments of our own lives – we can never know the whole story that makes up any truth. It is only as we perceive things at the time that we make our own truths.

Truth is made up of many fragments and they are all subjective. Your truth is not my truth. My perception of things is not your perception of the same things.

It will be the same for our story characters. What one character understands as the truth won’t be the same as another character’s understanding. This leads to conflict and misunderstanding.

If everyone presumes that another person knows something that is known to all the others no one thinks of telling that other person. Consequently when that other person finds out what everyone else knows it can come as a shock to them and alter the way they see things and what their subsequent actions and reactions will be.

You need to ask yourself ‘what does one person know that another doesn’t’, ‘how does that character find out what the other person/people know’, and ‘what happens when they find out’?

This might be a bit of a philosophical discussion but you need to have it when writing your characters to make them seem real.


Show Don’t Tell: Describing emotion

Woman wiping her eyesHow often have you read something like: ‘He felt embarrassed’? or: ‘She started to cry’? and not really felt the emotion yourself?

When was the last time you started to cry because a character in the book you were reading started to cry? Have you thought about why you felt the emotion strongly enough that it touched something in you?  Continue reading

Making your characters believable: Body Language

Body Language

When you watch other people you don’t always need to be told what their relationship is with each other or what that relationship is like — you can see it in their body language, their eyes, and hear it in the way they speak to each other.

Using descriptions of body language in your story shows your reader what is going on between two characters rather than telling them. It helps to create an emotional response in your reader, which reflects the emotional responses your characters are experiencing.  Continue reading

The eyes have it when it comes to conveying complex mental states

Our facial expressions give away more of what we’re thinking than we thought. New research shows that people’s eyes, in particular, are a dead giveaway.

The function behind a facial expression mirrors the person’s emotional state. So if someone is narrowing their eyes as if they are scrutinising something they are likely to be feeling thoughtful; wondering about something. If you feel as though you are being scrutinised then you probably are.

In Psychological Science we read that:

The research reveals, for example, that people consistently associate narrowed eyes – which can enhance visual discrimination – with discrimination-related emotions including disgust and suspicion.

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How observant are you? Using observation in story writing.

How observant are you?

Do you register faint changes in facial expressions? Do you notice the body language as one person passes something to another? Do you recognise the real meaning in people’s tone of voice?

These are all elements you can write into your story to make the characters, and what they do, more believable.

People watching

People watching is a great way to build up a resource to draw on.

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The revealing thing about stories

A story is not meant to be understood all at once, that’s what makes a good story so delicious … the slow, tantalising reveal. It’s what we crave as readers.

We start by being plonked into the middle of someone’s life – usually in a crisis situation – and spend the rest of the story finding out how they got there and what they did about it. The lip-smacking part at the end where we discover how their life resolves itself is what we’re aiming for.

But why does the story have the effect that it does on us? Continue reading