>I learned a lesson in characterization. From my older brother, of all people.
As writers, we’re reminded to ‘see’ the scene through the eyes of our characters. Often I ‘see’ the room/town/terrain with the character’s profession or gender in mind. If it’s a woman and she’s an interior decorator, she’d probably notice the shabby upholstery of an ancient sofa, or she’d wonder why in the world anyone would load up a small room with large heavy furniture.
Then my brother came to visit. I’ve lived in so many states I’ve lost count. My brother has never lived anywhere but Texas. While we were raised in north central/west Texas, he’s spent the bulk of his life in the hill country around Austin. It can be quite beautiful, but also quite flat, as evidenced by these pictures below.
The trees are either sparse and sprawling or scrawny and low.
I, on the other hand, now live in Georgia. At this time of year the foliage is thick on the trees, and there are PLENTY of trees. Even in this urban setting, you can see they’re plentiful on both sides of the road and quite tall. I happen to think they’re quite beautiful, as does my hubby, who was raised in Arkansas – very similar look with very tall trees. But I digress.
So we’re driving along and my brother calmly remarks that he can’t get used to the trees. It’s like driving through a tunnel of green. He can’t see
It took me a few seconds to relate to what he’d said.
Where he lives, you can see for miles and miles as you drive along the interstate. I imagine he felt rather claustrophobic. Where Georgians would simply be glad that Spring had finally taken a firm grip, he couldn’t see the view for the trees.
So the next time I uproot a character – say I take him from the Gulf Coast and plunk him down in Podunk, GA or Denver, CO – I’m going to research the place he’s from as well as where he is. That way, I can see his present via his past. If he’s used to the sound of surf and warm, salty air, and his memories of that place are pleasant, how would that change his perception of this new place?
It’s something to think about, don’t you think? An added dimension, if you will.