CHARACTERS, VOICE, & POINT OF VIEW
All stories are generally comprised of these basic parts. Right now you are doing the basic work to channel your desire to create a great story from the most easily accessible pieces in your mind to an actionable plan on paper. Let's Recap what you have already done so far and what we have to look forward to in the next activities.
Theme: You have discovered the simple lesson that you want your reader to walk away with. It is one that is important to you and that you have already imagined could have changed the outcome, or at least the short-term response to a problem you were facing.
Setting: You have selected the setting as the organic one that you experienced. The time period, the location, and the environment you were in.
Characters: Today we will be working on characters. We already have the outline of the main character. Let's develop that today as we select a voice.
Plot: (This will be in Activity 4)
Alright, let's dig into the characters your story will need. The main character is typically the character that the story revolves around. There are often stories that feature a number of characters and shift between their plot lines until it all comes together in the end. That is no small feat and involves quite a bit of pre-planning. For the purpose of sketching out the core of your story let's commit (for now) to only having one main character. We have established that characters age, but character development requires much more than that. I know that the easiest thing here would be to make the character YOU. But that does not always pan out to be a great story. Let's figure out the dynamics of your main character by listing their attributes, personality, strengths, and weaknesses. Remember, you do not want your character to be flat. That means they need some dimension, even if that includes negative traits.
Main Character (Male) - Tommy
Attributes: Tall for his age, floppy blond hair(always in his eyes), brown eyes, freckles.
Personality: Awkward in group settings, doesn't speak up much, shy, loner
Strengths: Great at basketball, helps out around the house, great big brother to younger siblings, pretty good at drawing, tries to keep the peace
Weaknesses: People pleaser, not great at school, tends to day-dream instead of doing assignments, not assertive, loner.
This is not a great deal of information. But it is enough to anticipate how a character would react in any given situation including the one that you are about to put them in. It is okay if you want to base the character loosely on yourself. However, this is your story, so it is your opportunity to infuse character traits and nuance into your character that you may not have had at that age.
*Supporting Characters: Once we establish the plot (in Activity 4) you are going to want to swing back and do this same exercise with the supporting characters that make an appearance in the story. But for now work on building out as much information about the main character as possible even if you don't think you will use it all.
Before we close out this Activity 3, let's talk about one of the most important decisions you make in drafting a story - voice. The voice of your story in the perspective through which the story is told. The two main (most commonly used) choices are:
1. Author’s Voice – This voice is telling the story though the writer's (your) style of speaking and world view.
Authors voice is often written in third person point of view and characterized by the use of "he" "she" or "they." In my book "Aleena's Scarf." I (as the author) am telling the story of what goes on between Little Jamal and Aleena on the playground. I am omniscient. I know how everyone feels, what they are doing and thinking. Aleena and Jamal do speak to one another and their dialogue is in quotations, but they are not narrating the story. It's almost as if I am in the sky watching the story unfold and relaying the information to you. To that end, my personal interpretations and thoughts are the voice that come through in the narration.
2. Character’s Voice – This voice is telling the story through whatever character you select and includes how they view the world as well as their age-appropriate style of speaking. Character's voice is often written in first person
Example: If a character voice is telling a story in first person (characterized by the use of "I" and "We") the narrative (not the dialogue) in the story would look like. We didn't want to walk back so we waited there, in the rain, for the bus. In this voice there are many things that the narrator doesn't know and will find out at the same time that the reader does. This about the development you did earlier.
if you choose to use a character voice to tell your story, does this character use slang or do they speak very properly? Are they impulsive or sophisticated? Do they speak in long drawn out sentences or short to the point phrasing? The characters personality will show through in the voice. In reality though, the author's voice bleeds through character voice also, because you can't help but to slip little pieces of yourself into your stories. And you shouldn't try to keep them out anyway. Your story will be interesting because you are interesting. So feel free to blur the lines between character and self, but once you choose a voice, REMAIN CONSISTENT.
Jot down a few sentences in the voice you've selected, then meet me back on the blog for Activity 4....the PLOT.