Monday, August 04, 2008

exploiting the kernel of character

Last night, in anticipation of writing one of those complicated many-characters-in-a-room scenes, I decided to deconstruct the entire Messmeir clan. Frances has five siblings, and though I have a rough idea of who they are, I found I couldn't attribute language to them in a way that rendered them concrete, personality-wise. In other words, they all sounded like variations of the same note. A little bit sharper, a little bit flatter. The same note.

Occasionally I've built a character around a phrase. For instance, eavesdropping in a cafe recently, I came across this gem: "I always know when I've eaten too many carbs because all my knives are in the dishwasher." This from a woman who weighed 102 pounds soaking wet. I wrote that phrase down, and just came across it the other day. I decided to base Frances's sister Tess on that overheard tidbit, and loosely on the anorexic woman who uttered it.

The complexity grows when I can imagine how she'd interact with her stoner brother, Morgan (who is loosely based on my ex-husband. Okay, I said loosely--don't want to get sued here). Morgan and Tess are somewhat close in age (37 and 41, respectively), but represent the dyads of the Messmeir clan. Morgan's guile has been puffed out of him, and Tess has an agenda for every single action she commits.

They are an octave apart, these two, and I can't wait to get them in a room together!

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