Tuesday, October 12, 2010
COLUNIST: Building Colorful Characters
Building Colorful Characters—
The Literary Bones of a Story, Part 10
The familiar spine-chilling howling on Halloween and its murky air of gloom and doom would never mystify or scare anyone to the point of regurgitation or bone-shaking screams without the visuals of its many colorful characters. Those bold and fearless enough to often immerse themselves in this frightening genre, lending their eyes and mind to the chilly tales of horror and creepy villains even have their favorites.
Whether they are murderous tyrants or bloodthirsty vixens, Halloween and the industry of horror, thriller, and suspense continues to spew the public with the unique litter of engaging characters they seem to be dying for. Movies, television shows, cartoons, commercials, videos, toys, and games make huge sums of money all year-round from this popular field. Old-time characters such as Frankenstein, the Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, vampires, witches, and warlocks have been leaving their physical and literary fiendish marks on mankind for centuries. But even if you are a person that loathes such type of entertainment, an impression of some sort has still been made on you and your psyche about the ghouls and goblins because of their colorful existence.
Take, for instance, the Hunchback of Notre Dame. In your mind’s eye, can’t you picture this character just because of the mere mention of his name? An impression has been left on your mental-camera, even if you didn’t allow a movie, film, or comic book to flirt this character in front of you for too long. Why? Because the veteran misfit owns qualities of unforgettable uniqueness. The character’s huge hump, gross facial features, ragged clothing, and defective walk draws a permanent picture in your mind.
And then there’s the Bride of Frankenstein, whose haystacked silvery hairdo is as memorable to us as any bumblebee looking for a beehive. The character’s hissing voice inspires pure terror, accented by her dark, dead, vacant eyes, pointed white teeth, and hideous long nails all serve up distinct memories that claw at our minds and souls with unforgiveness. Frankenstein himself couldn’t mumble a believable word if he wasn’t sporting his usual neck bolts and flat head that hideously has been tattooed and sewn on as his own.
Modern-day horror junkies have characters such as Chucky, Jason, Freddie, and Mike Myers. Each of these characters have their own trademark of delivering their share of bloodcurdling drama given to us through costume, verbal delivery, props, and background scenery, as well as eerie music. Each gory scene we hungrily devour with an insatiable appetite as the characters sear their image in our brain. But if we take away their gross characteristics, they’d be like any other familiar, dysfunctional person, so instead, we continue to await them to return, hoping each time they will swoop us down deeper into the dark pits of heart-stopping madness that jars us out of our skin and makes those goose bumps pop up.
While the Twilight series offer up young fresh and handsome faces, it also ripples its characters with one of the oldest horror and thriller designs of bloodthirsty vampirism. Characters can retell stories that have long ago torn open our civilized psyche with unmentionable horrors just as long as the writer can thrust a new dagger into the story’s spirit and heat up the taste in the mouths of their readers with their own style and dressing. Imagine making the Bride of Frankenstein a bit younger or sexier but keeping her ghoulish vamp intact simply by a change in hairstyle or updated wardrobe?
The long-ago movie Blacula gave Dracula a new spin simply by making him black. With some creativity, a writer could take any horror character and make him, her, or it uniquely different simply by changing the race or its usual activity. What would happen if a creepy character suddenly developed an alter ego?
Ask yourself, why do you remember the evil laugh of a wrinkled witch in all-black with a pointy hat or immediately picture one flying through the air atop a straw broom? Because the producers stenciled them to live in your mind long after you’ve seen them. As you read, can’t you envision a long, bent, warty nose and hear the squealing voice of a childhood character in bewitching drag? Of course you can, and so can most readers long after they shelf their book. Are you giving your readers bewitching characters to remember and envision after they put their book down? Their drag does not have to be one of horror.
And if you really want to observe colorful characters at their best, attend any grown-up Halloween party. These people go all out in costume and assume the character’s identity. Try talking to your local banker at one of these creative junketers and you’ll be surprised at the gobble-gook you’ll receive as he lives the life and body of Count Dracula. While reading over a copy of your approved loan that jolted you because of the bank’s high percentage rates, you thought then he was going for your juggler vein—until you faced him in party drag and he leaned in with his jagged teeth scraping your neck, and you suddenly realize the true colorful character that he really is.
Writers such as Ann Rice and Stephen King know that bleeding unique styles, voices, and behavioral patterns into their characters continuously make them memorable, believable, and emotionally engaging. Each time these writers put out something new, it’s a guarantee that it will chatter your teeth and constrict your throat with fear, but it’s always done in a different, yet colorful way, using each character to emotionally bleed it’s viewer with a different sway from the last time. It’s fresh.
Of course, every writer should be ready at any given time, with pen and paper or recorder, to make note of interesting things that could be useful in character development. Missing the opportunity to write down snippets of an unusual conversation or noting a peculiar person and personality is a horror all of its own. Recognizing new ways to make old characters come alive, clawing their way to the top, and knowing where to look to find them is a wicked talent that will keep your readers howling for more of your creativity for years to come. HAPPY HALLO-WRITING!
Wordsmiths, remember to e-mail me with your creations, and I’ll post them here for all to meet and utilize. For your gifting, I’ll post a picture of your latest book and a link to your Web site.
Pens up! to building colorful characters the write way.
Rachel Berry has been gifted by our creator to be many things; on the list of these blessings are daughter, caregiver, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, best friend, aunt, published author & poet, motivational speaker, radio talk show host, mentor, columnist and community leader.
She has been a government employee for 24 years.
Rachel is the founder and president of Black Pearls United INC. (an African American sister-circle) which was founded in 2000.
Berry is also an alumni member of Toastmasters International where she has earned her CTM and has been awarded as Toastmaster of the Year.
Rachel is proudly promoting her books 'From The Heart And Heat Of Me.' and her novel ‘Family Pictures:’ the family saga of two women with too many secrets and the up and down relationships they have with those people they call family.
To arrange speaking engagements e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For book signings please e-mail her at email@example.com. To preview and buy her books please visit her web site at http://www.lulu.com/RachelBerry, http://www.rachelberry.webs.com/.
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