Character Depth: Through The Eyes Of Another

Last week I finished a new draft of my manuscript. Yeah! While it is technically a second draft, since the first draft was written in third person and this one is written in first, it is quite different from its predecessor.

In changing the narrator, I have had to look for ways to portray the other characters through the eyes of the protagonist, Ella. It has been an interesting exercise in character depth.

For example, I was particularly surprised at Maddie’s reaction when she was reintroduced to her brother, Avery. She was both angry and distrusting of him. In the original draft she welcomed him with open arms, but through Ella’s eyes the story played out differently. I then had to figure out why she didn’t trust him. Or why Ella perceived that as so.

In the days since I finished my draft, I have reread 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson and read the recently released sequel,The Last Little Blue Envelope. If you haven’t read them, go do so now. I’ll wait… (That will be even better once you’ve read the book!)

Both books follow Ginny on various adventures orchestrated by her Aunt Peg. While the reader never “sees” Peg in the story, you get to know her through a series of letters, memories and through the people she has encountered in her past. It’s fascinating how much you can learn about a character through the people they surround themselves with.

As I’ve thought about my characters today, I have stopped to wonder how the other characters would view them. For example: Does Maddie see Ella the same way Avery does? What does that say about Maddie? Is that true to her character? How can I bring the antagonist, Silas, into the story without him actually being in the scene? Why does Avery feel more sympathetic towards him than the other characters? By asking these questions I hope to craft characters that have more depth.

How do you build depth in your characters?

Also, I would love your thoughts on 13 Little Blue Envelopes and The Last Little Blue Envelope.

Leave a comment to discuss.

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Posted on May 4, 2011, in Book reviews, Characters, On writing ... and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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