Friday, September 24, 2010

Compelling Characters

Okay, so this is a speedy first draft blog post, because I'm a slacker this week and didn't get this written until this morning (but my laundry's done, so I'm feeling pretty good about that).

Elana J, Jen, and Alex have challenged us to write down what we feel makes a compelling character (for the full list of bloggers see Elana's post here).

I think, to make a compelling character, you need your character to be like my Aunt Betsy. Yes, Aunt Betsy.

First, she is super nice. She would give you the shirt off her back (if she wore one, but she is always wearing those floral dresses). She invites people in to visit, she makes meals for people in her neighborhood who are having a hard time. Yeah, she has a reputation of niceness.

 Now, something you should know about Aunt Betsy, which is kind of creepy. She has twelve cats. TWELVE! Which makes her house stinky, so she wears enough perfume to make your eyes water. It's kind of gross, but she's got that niceness thing going on and she can't stand to see any stray cats go without.

The cat thing wouldn't be so bad if Aunt Betsy didn't look so weird. I mean, she has blue hair. You know, the kind of blue that is fluffed up so high—it  makes you want to eat a big ball of cotton candy. That kind of hair (hey, at least it’s not pink).

Plus, she loves her make-up. I heard once Queen Elizabeth or Mary or some queen out there, wore her make-up without taking it off. It was so thick when she died that they had to use a chisel to find her actual skin. I think Aunt Betsy took make-up lessons from her. It wouldn’t be so bad, but that red lipstick’s gotta go!

There is something else you should know about my Aunt. I found out - that night - the one when Mom and Dad had to go to my little brother’s school play, and I had to stay at her house because I got in trouble for taking all the money from the family’s vacation jar to buy myself some doughnuts for school lunch (but that’s a completely different story).  

You see, Aunt Betsy has a fetish with that old movie Arsenic and Old Lace, you know, the one where the old women were killing off lonely old men and burying them in their basement. Well, she keeps a shovel in the basement. And the floor boards look like they’ve been pulled up. Plus it kind of stinks down there like a moldy sandwich that’s been kept in a lunch sack too long. It just makes me wonder. But I’ve never asked her. I mean. Would you?

So tell me what you know about my Aunt Betsy?

Let’s see. She is a weird nice cat lady, has big blue puffy hair (probably older with a little weight, because those are the only women I know with big blue hair), she wears much too much make-up and smells like the perfume kiosk at the mall. Oh, yeah, plus she probably has dead bodies in the basement. Gross.

Oh! And there’s one last thing you need to know about my Aunt Betsy. She’s totally made up. I don’t really have an Aunt Betsy. Aunt Sue, on the other hand, I do have. She is just as interesting as Aunt Betsy, (except for the dead body).

Description, likes dislikes, needed bonding with the reader/mc, what ticks them off, would they really react that way? How come they do that little raising thing with their shoulder? What are their little secrets?

Know your character! That’s how you can make your character more compelling. Any other thoughts you’ve learned along the Blog fest?

Thanks guys! I hope you all get tons of writing done with many compelling characters to interact with.  

46 comments:

WindyA said...

Great thoughts on the topic! I totally agree, some of my favorite compelling characters are the ones who jump off the page as though they were already a part of my own family / circle of friends.

Jen said...

This was so cute Carolyn! I love your really fast blog post, still enjoyed it, and think I might actually like Aunt Betsy, dead bodies and all (if it's a story... let's not get crazy)

Quinn said...

Aunt Betsy sounds great! Haha! Great post!

Danyelle said...

Carolyn, this was awesome! Excellent lesson in writing a compelling character and SHOWING us how it's done! I'd love to read about Aunt Betsy. :D

Mary Campbell said...

Lol - nice job Carolyn - loved the humor - you really brought Aunt Betsy to life and showed instead of told us how to write a compelling character.

Jenn Johansson said...

I think I might know Aunt Betsy! ;) Great character description with showing instead of telling...what are you, a writer or something? :)

Jolene Perry said...

Hey, that was fun.
Show not Tell, right?

Yamile said...

This is so original! I'll remember this post.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Aunt Betsy, huh? Works for me! This post has your fingerprints all over it, Carolyn - and since that was the goal, well done, bff!! :-)

Talei said...

I think thats my aunt you just describe! LOL But she only has 2 cats...which is a good thing. Nice post!

Creepy Query Girl said...

lol- and that's how you build a compelling character! Aunt Bessy is a mystery- great post!

Solvang Sherrie said...

Aunt Betsy is hilarious, and quite the compelling character :)

Susan R. Mills said...

I think I'd like to meet Aunt Betsy! Seriously, though, you make a great point; we must know our characters.

ali said...

Ha! What a great character sketch!

salarsenッ said...

I loved this!! Hah. Ya' made me think. I'm so mad I missed this blogfest. Oh, well, next time. ";-)

Patti said...

Totally loved it. You added all the senses and you could totally picture her.

Carolyn Abiad said...

Whew! I'm so glad she's not really your aunt. I was getting worried! :D

Vicki Rocho said...

You had me suckered there for a few minutes! And I'm kinda disappointed she's not real. :( Tell me Aunt Sue keeps cats or has pink hair (I like pink better than blue) or maybe she dyes her cats' fur pink?

I haven't seen Arsenic and Old Lace for AGES! I'm going to have to rent it, I remember loving it the one time I saw it...

Sara B. Larson said...

Very fun way to talk about characters! I was beginning to wonder if she was real by the end... ;) Great thoughts!

Elana Johnson said...

Aha! You liar!! :) But it illustrates a great point. That all we need to do is sit down and create someone that readers can relate to someone else.

Summer Ross said...

You proved a believing point LOL, I totally fell for her as real!

lbdiamond said...

Cat lady starter kit--too cute! :D

Great post!

L.T. Elliot said...

Clever way to show, not tell. =] Will Aunt Besty be making a cameo, now? ;)

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

That was fantastic! I was drawn in completely............Way to make a compelling character!

Melissa said...

A great addition to todays topic!

Knowing our characters is so relevant... I don't know if anything is possibly more important.

Lynda Young said...

Gotta love Aunt Betsy ;)
great post

Jessica Carmen Bell said...

haha! Very cute and nicely done! I want me an Aunt Betsy!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Aunt Betsy sounds like a wild character to me!

Hannah Kincade said...

LOL! Love it!! I want to read more about this Betsy.

Julie Wright said...

Betsy rocks (which is not to be confused with Betsy Ross) What a fun post. I genuinely enjoyed it. Thanks.

N. R. Williams said...

Aunt Betsy lives above me...oh, it's a condo and there aren't any basements. Maybe it's her cousin. LOL
Loved your post.
Nancy
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Lisa Potts said...

You're Aunt and I have something in common. I love Arsenic and Old Lace too. My Aunt used to watch old movies with me all the time. Great post.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I loved your description of Aunt Betsy! She sounds quite memorable.

Jackee said...

You are too funny, Carolyn! Thanks for sharing. :o) Now I can't wait to hear about Aunt Sue!!

Have a great day.

Elena Solodow said...

This was an excellent way to demonstrate characterization. Love it!

Lynn said...

:) I was kind of hoping Aunt Betsy was true! You do know her well. Yes, we should know our characters inside and out, even with the details that will never hit our written pages.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Aunt Betsy sounds like quite the character! Loved the post.

TerryLynnJohnson said...

oh so funny! New follower!

Julie said...

Compelling? Oh, I think so. I was ready to reach for some cat allergy medicine in between sneezing from the perfume.

Good show! You certainly got that "show, don't tell" thing down pat. :)

LeishaMaw said...

I love Aunt Bestsy! Especially the shovel part. He he.
:)

Terry Stonecrop said...

This was really fun!!!:D I like the way you layered her. She starts off nice but rather dull, then one by one, weirder and weirder.

Yup, Aunt Betsy makes a great character!

Robert Guthrie said...

I love Aunt Betsy. When else are you going to bring her to life?

Bethany Mattingly said...

Aunt Betsy=awesome fun :) I loved the part with the dead bodies and the blue hair.

Quinn said...

Hey Carolyn, just wanted to let you know that I gave you an award on my blog.

Jayne said...

I enjoyed reading that - lots of fun the way you layered the description and peppered in a little back story. :)

Ishta Mercurio said...

This was great! Such a perfect example of how to round out a character. Nicely done!