By Jeff Salter
Some of my favorite things to discuss are characters and poetry, so it’s logical that I’d want to combine the two — since our topic this week is a ‘free space’.
As writers of fiction, we are tasked to create vivid ‘pictures’ of our characters. The better we do so, the more engrossed our readers can become. Whether readers ‘like’ our characters is less important than making those characters compelling and appropriately motivated.
In this poem, written nearly 20 years ago, I present a female character who was ‘inspired’ by a composite of at least three different people. It was never my intention to write her into a novel, but it occurred to me (today) that the characters we create often begin with relatively few lines … or just a short scene. Or maybe a few snippets strung together … as in this poem.
In fiction, the reader would have a lot more exposure (than 25 lines) with which to form opinions. But bear with me for a few moments and let’s ANALYZE this character:
By Jeffrey L. Salter
Once he was proud oak,
strong and limber.
But she needed a shillelagh,
and picked him
to be trimmed, shaped
She used him only when needed:
(often merely as context
but frequently as an ornament).
Sometimes he was her cudgel
for defense or for
one day he’d probably
have to kill.
Habitually, she trained her gaze
to keep lookout
for a likely replacement —
Blackthorn, if she could find it.
Over time he became brittle:
his remaining life
spent in her trunk
… with expired flares,
a deflated spare
and the jack she could not work.
Published in: Sunday at Four — Vol. 3 No. 3 (Fall 1994).
Now, I don’t expect readers of this blog to actually respond to each of these questions. My point is: as writers, we should exercise our analysis ‘muscles’ when we create our characters. We should ponder how our readers will perceive these characters.
So, consider these questions … and please respond to any ONE (or more) that you wish.
She / Her
* Is ‘she’ the villain? Or could she be the heroine (after she gets through her ‘GMC’)?
What is her Goal?
* How ‘aware’ do you suppose she is of her own behavior?
* What in her background may have shaped her behavior / attitude … toward men?
* Why did she feel she needed a shillelagh as a mate?
He / Him
* What’s your take on this guy’s personality?
* What is his Goal?
* Could he actually be her ‘cudgel’ … but also her doormat?
* Why does he think he may one day have to kill for her?
* What in his background may have shaped his action / reaction … toward such a woman?
* How does he likely feel, knowing that she’s constantly looking for his replacement?
Could you see these two characters in a novel?
Would you WANT to read more about them?
What would be the best GENRE for this ‘couple’?
If these two characters were in a novel that you had to write … what would your title be?
What other questions come to your mind about these two characters?