Character Q and A DayAsk away!
Here is your chance to ask the Wet Noodle Posse anything you desire about Character.
We'll start out with me (Diane) trying to answer doglady's (aka O Doggy One) questions from our first day:
(doggy question 1) Is it better to establish a character up front or is it better to reveal them slowly in layers?
(diane answer 1) Yes. hahahahahaha.
Seriously, it is (in my opinion) important to do both, at least for your hero and heroine. In your very first scene with the character, you want to give the reader a strong impression. You want to give enough so that the reader will know whether she is likely to enjoy these characters, whether she is going to fall in love with the hero and 'see herself' in the heroine. If you open with, say, the hero acting dark and dangerous, you have to show at least a hint of him also being heroic--or that there is more to him than this dark and dangerous moment. If you show the heroine, say, acting selfish and self-centered, you want to also show the hint that there is a reason for this.
But you don't want to dump the whole backstory on the reader in Scene One. That's what you filter in.
I think Pris's imagery of 'peeling back the outer layers to get at the juicy parts' is a good analogy here, too. You peel away a little at a time, but don't hold out too long so that the answer to why a character does what he does is only mentioned in the last chapter -- although you could build up to that final surprise....
I'm sure other Noodlers and our lovely commenters have more to say on this issue!
(doggy question 2) How do you keep the conflict between the hero and heroine going without making either of them look bad?
(diane answer 2) Sigh. Now you have hit upon my exact worry about the book I just turned in (the one I stayed up all night checking the copy edits and can no longer change)--did I make the heroine look bad?
I think the answer to your question, though, lies in Motivation. Can the reader understand why the hero and heroine are acting the way they do? Have you made something happen in the plot that they are reacting to in understandable ways, and ways that the reader now knows are characteristic of them? (Did I establish the situation between my hero and heroine well enough that the reader understands why my heroine act the way she does?)
It is hard to avoid the kind of conflict between a hero and heroine that could be resolved with an adult conversation, but that's what we must aspire to do. If heroine can't tell hero X, there has to be a reason for it. If hero does X to heroine, there has to be a reason for it.
Any more questions about that?