It’s All About the Characters

IMG_5419Two weeks ago I wrote about a critical scene that came into being organically, in a moment of inspiration.

Last week I stole some time to work on that scene; I was dissatisfied. I found it lacked the impact I would have liked, but could not figure out why.

After reading and re-reading, I finally put my finger on it: the characters were too flat. There was nothing to them. I realized that while I had ideas about these characters in my head, I had not developed them enough to be able to bring them to life. So…instead of rewriting the scene I committed some time to fleshing out these characters.

Sergeant Dick Sparks is a 30 year old lapsed Quaker, who loves a good pipe full of tobacco. He has a wife and four surviving children who are running the family farm back home. His speech is slow but thoughtful, and he is a dependable subordinate and leader.

Private Lawrence Tragey is a large, gruff man. He presents a callous front to the world, but is really a sensitive, caring person. He has two children with his common-law wife, Grace. When they met, Grace was a slave; given that and her mixed African/Native American descent, she had virtually no social standing, but Lawrence fell in love with her and used every bit of money he could scrape together to buy her freedom. Together they fled the judgment of their home community for the more tolerant environs of Philadelphia. After the war broke out, Lawrence eventually enlisted, and Grace followed along.

Both Sparks and Tragey are veterans of the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown. They were hand-picked to fetch Gideon and Ruth and their belongings, and the rest of the company expects them to fill them in about this strange young officer who is joining their ranks.

That’s better! Now that I know better what makes these two characters tick, I can create a more vibrant scene, with livelier dialogue. I can decide which character traits to reveal, and which to hide for later. I am excited to get back into this scene to breathe more life into it. I hope my readers enjoy reading it as much as I am enjoying writing it!


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