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Blogging By the Sea
Saturday, September 24 2022

This month's Round Robin Blog asks: What do you define in your writing about your characters and what do you leave to the reader’s intuition? Is there anything you never tell about a character?

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The answer to this question depends on what we mean by define? For me, I’m going to assume that define means telling the reader what a character is like. Not necessarily what they look like but what kind of person they are. So, using this definition of define, I try NOT to define my characters but rather to show the reader what they are like.

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For the obvious, rather than tell the reader that Mac had a soft spot for dogs, I show him rescuing an abandoned puppy. I follow that up with how he treated it in the days that followed, in his efforts to find the puppy’s owner, and his growing dismay to find he didn’t want to find the owner. Now the reader knows how Mac feels about dogs in general and this one in particular without me specifically defining his feelings toward the dog.

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For the less obvious, things like loyalty, chivalry, honesty, kindness, or their opposites: disloyalty, deceiving, mistreating women or ignoring people in need, I again try to show the reader what’s in my character’s hearts by their actions. If I have my character brush angrily past an old woman fumbling with her parcels because he is in a hurry or perhaps doesn’t even notice her, then the reader gets a pretty good idea of this person’s character without me saying he was callous or rude. Just as I could have a well-dressed business woman in a hurry for an important interview stop to help a distressed child who is obviously lost. Knowing it will mean missing the interview but stopping anyway. Now the reader has a good grasp on the type of person this woman is. Maybe she’s a mother and could relate to that child’s distress, but perhaps she’s not which makes her actions doubly revealing. The same goes for four-legged characters. One might prance eagerly, tail wagging furiously, or cower uncertainly or snarl menacingly. All show the reader what kind of dog this is, at least in this situation.

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It’s a case of show rather than tell, but obviously the reader does need to know this character so they will understand why the character makes the choices they make. You might have a character which a history of abuse and it’s important for your reader to know this so they will understand why the character avoids certain people and situations. Or perhaps a character grew up dirt poor which explains his or her pinching every penny until it squeals, or having finally hit the big time doing everything possible to erase their origins – like introducing friends to their parents or taking a college friend home for the weekend. Knowing where a character comes from not only helps the reader to understand choices made, but also to feel empathy for the character, or a sense of satisfaction or triumph for a success that might have been easy for someone else but was monumental for your character.

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Then there are the quirks a character might have. How much better is it to show the character carefully organizing their catch-all drawer, or hurrying around behind a roommate rearranging everything the roommate tossed haphazardly as they went through the apartment, than to flat out define this character as OCD? Or the character who bites their fingernails whenever they are stressed, or cowers when lightning zaps across the sky? A good author does not need to define those quirks – just show the reader and let the reader figure it out.  

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But showing a character’s personality without telling, also lets the reader develop their own relationship with that character rather than the author telling the reader how they should feel about them. In Mayberry RFD, no one tells the viewer that everyone loves Aunt Bea because she is kind, gentle, loving, thoughtful, the viewer gets to see Aunt Bea in action, supporting Andy, helping to rear Opie, interacting with townsfolk. We didn’t have to be told what kind of officer Barney Fife is, or that Otis has a problem with alcohol, we SEE them acting these characters out. That’s how I prefer to present my characters in my books. Not defining who they are, or what they are like in my own words but presenting them in a way the reader can see for themselves and form their own relationships with the characters.  

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So, my answer to the second question is I try to leave it all to the intuition of the reader. I want the reader to care about my characters because of how I’ve presented them, not because I have to tell them they need to care. I hope there is nothing about my characters I have failed to reveal, however. But that’s just me. Hop on over and see how my fellow monthly Round Robin Blog Hoppers approach the subject.

Connie Vines 

Dr. Bob

A.J. Maguire 

Robin Courtright 

                           Helena Fairfax

Posted by: Skye Taylor AT 09:00 am   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, September 10 2022
September Memories

As I write this, two things are on my mind. Tomorrow’s upcoming day of remembrance for all who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks on our home turf by a fanatical regime dedicated to bringing America to her knees and the death just two days ago of a woman who embodied so much of what is good in this world.

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Social media has been flooded by images, poems and memories of Queen Elizabeth II. For seventy years she reigned with grace, dignity and aplomb in a world filled with anger, hate and blame. While Britain is a democracy, still she represented all that was good about Britain's influence in our world. I am old enough to remember when she became the queen. Although our family didn’t have a television yet I was aware of it through pictures in the local papers and discussions among my parents and their friends. And Queen Elizabeth II has been there, a quiet, yet influential part of our world ever since. I’m an American, so she isn’t technically, ‘my’ queen, and  yet . . . It felt like she would always be there and now she is gone. Her son, Charles III sits in her place and only time will tell if he will grace the monarchy with the charm and poise his mother showed for so many years. From tea with Paddington, to visits of state, her beauty and wisdom showed through and touched all who had the good fortune to spend time in her presence. The closest I ever came was watching the changing of the guard outside Windsor Castle while she was actually in residence, and staying at the bed and breakfast housed in an old gatehouse attached to the castle grounds. But just knowing she was part of the world I enjoyed was a blessing. She will be mourned by millions and dearly missed.

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So too, are thousands still missed who perished on September 11, 2001. Can it really be twenty-one years since that day? It sometimes feels like it was just yesterday. Working in an environment without outside connectedness, my son’s phone call was my first shocking realization of what was happening in New York, but very quickly the market closed and my company began streaming CNN onto our desktops. The reality of the attack, the utter devastation, the images of those planes, of firemen rushing into buildings they would never come out of, people fleeing from waves of dust and later, the words overheard from the brave men on flight 93 who decided enough was enough. It all feels so fresh and real and awful, even all these years later. Maybe it's the harshness and raw hurt that stand out in our memories. I can only imagine my parents shock and disbelief on hearing FDR on the radio announcing a day that would live in infamy and how those words might have stuck in their minds for the rest of their years. Almost as if it were yesterday, I recall the stunned silence in the halls of my high school when we were dismissed early after our young and much loved president JFK’s assassination. These memories of lost innocence, however old we were when they happened, stand out in our souls as changing points in our lives. Social media will be awash once again with reminders of that awful day in September so recent to most of us and yet before all those in my grandchildren's generation were even born. I pray they will not be ripped so harshly from their naïveté as the generations before them.

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So today and in the days to come, I remember a Queen who reigned with charity and poise, through good times and bad, in the face of personal tragedy and national turmoil. God speed her soul and may God bless Charles who now wears the crown and has to live up to the example she set.

And God bless all those who still mourn the loss of husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sisters, daughters, sons, brothers and friends who lost their lives 21 years ago and all those who stepped forward to serve since and paid the price. Freedom has never been free and I write this in honor of all those who paid that price.

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Take a moment, if you will, to be thankful for the blessings you have and to tell those who make your life the blessing it is, that you love and cherish them.

Posted by: Skye Taylor AT 02:31 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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    Skye Taylor
    St Augustine, Florida
    skye@skye-writer.com

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