Monday, April 08, 2013

Character Building During the Zombie Apocalypse

I recently took a Character Building Class through RWA University. Romance Author, HelenKay Dimon, gave great information about layering to create three dimensional characters.
One of the exercises she asked us to do was to list ten character traits for our hero/heroine/villain and then answer the question, Why? Doing so helps the writer know the motivation for their characters actions and builds a backstory. Even if the back story doesn’t make it onto the page, it is important for the writer to know.
The consistent feedback that HelenKay gave the participants was that the characters were too good—they needed more flaws. People are imperfect and it’s sometimes difficult to love and relate to a character who does everything right.
We were given two great resources to use to “interview” and develop our characters. The first is 100 Character Development Questions forWriters. The other is 25 Things You Should Know About Character by Chuck Wendig from the terribleminds website.
After the class, I began to examine not only my own characters, but those created by other delicious brains. Brains!

One of my favorite television shows is The Walking Dead on AMC. In preparation for the Season 3 finale, I watched the Marathon that aired each night leading to the finale. I had seen them before but the second time around, I paid closer attention to character traits.
I was curious how Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) became the instant leader of the group. There was a tell-tale scene in Season 2, Episode 7 (Pretty Much Dead Already) when Shane, in a rebellious haze of aggression, opened the barn door (where Hershel was keeping Walkers) and Rick’s group opened fire on them- excluding Rick. Then, Sophia (the little girl they’d been searching for) came out zombie-fied and Rick was the only one capable of putting her down.
There were other factors at play but, in my opinion, that moment offered a profound insight into Rick’s character and an interesting contrast to the rest of the group (some of whom were struggling with Rick’s leadership).
Do you have any character revealing moments that stand out in your mind?


Lexi said...

How about Scarlett O'Hara? She's selfish, vain, and manipulative and not nearly as likeable as Melanie, but she's the heroine. Why? She's flawed, yes, but she's also strong and loyal, single minded, determined, and ruthless. There's that scene in the garden at Tara when she's so hungry she digs up the radishes and eats them, dirt and all, and then retches. Then she vows, "As God is my witness, as God is my witness they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again!"
Pretty powerful character arc from the spoiled Southern belle to this unstoppable force of nature.

Carla Swafford said...

Oh, Meda, I love watching The Walking Dead. Gives me bad dreams (not quite nightmares) but it's like a car accident on the road. You tell yourself not to look, but you end up doing it anyway.

And I love layering on characters in my books. Love seeing the bad guys do good, the good doing bad ... Love digging into why people do the things they do. Thus why I love to write.

I think most writers are cynical because we know there are more than meets the eye when it comes to people.

By the way, you made a totally gruesome zombie. Congrats! LOL! (I would love to be a zombie on the show.)

Great post!

Meda White said...

Lexi- Great example with Miss Scarlett. It is great to see her growth through adversity.

Carla- Thanks! When I showed my hubby that photo, he said that he'd definitely shoot me in the head. Good thing Zombie-Meda is wearing a riot helmet.

Katherine Bone said...

Freaky! Woot! And so funny too!!! Great post, Meda, and I love your zombiefied self!

Have you seen Warm Bodies yet? Very cool zombie movie!

Meda White said...

Kathy- I enjoyed Warm Bodies. Yeah, pretty much if it has zombies, I've seen it- bad or good. I like Sean of the Dead- British humor.

Carla Swafford said...

Meda, have you seen Juan of the Dead? So funny.

I need to see Shaun of the Dead and Warm Bodies. :-)

Aidee Ladnier said...

Great resources! Thanks so much. And while everyone's listing their favorite zombie movies, I have to give a shout out to "My Boyfriend's Back". I'm totally looking forward to "Warm Bodies". --Angelia