Monday, April 2, 2012

Characters: Those people things

I have a confession.
I'm weird.
Yeah, yeah. I know. Most of us are. Actually, we all are. We -- especially we book types -- come in odd forms. We like locking ourselves in rooms alone with dead trees and pretending the rest of the world doesn't exist. We sit at our computers and lose ourselves in worlds that only we can see. We collect intangible words and hold them close. It's a characteristic of people who love books. And why?
Every group of people has that. Has that set of things that makes them different. Some of us like words. Some of us enjoy cooking. Some freaks lovely individuals like spending their time getting sweaty and disgusting  working out. That's what makes life -- and books -- interesting. High lighting the differences.
Even better, though, is the weird stuff.
Some of it doesn't translate well to books because it's just too odd. I, for instance, live in the debate group. The mix consists of about fifty people -- seriously, our prom group numbers 30 -- but you can narrow it down to ten or fifteen of my particular 'people'. We go camping in back yards because we're too lazy to go further, but we like the out doors. We make a lot of mix cds and we go to a lot of movies and the boys play a lot of Frisbee. We're known in the school as the debate kids, and known by the characteristic of being snarky, cynical, and competitive.We spend too much time at the local Sonic, drinking way too much soda. (Except we gave soda up for prom. You don't know how much that hurt.) (I miss cranberry coke desperately.)
All of those things are part of our group. Those translate as our characters. But there are little things that probably wouldn't make much sense in a book. Time at tournaments has made us lose our personal space. It isn't uncommon for people to randomly bite someone else on the shoulder or wrist -- and by bite, I really do mean bite (I know, it really is weird). We joke to the point of meanness and get in trouble for talking a lot. (I am a senior, dangit, and still having my seat moved by my teachers. It's incredibly obnoxious.) (But then, I guess I am too.) Those things don't really translate as well. If I were writing a book and using us as characters, those little things wouldn't make sense to put in. 
It's interesting to me. I've been reading a lot lately -- I took a class called Appreciation of Literature this semester and all it consists of is reading and reviewing books -- and the difference between strong and weak characters comes in the details. I have the bad habit of looking at my friends and thinking of them in terms of a character. One of my best friends has bright hair and a bright laugh; another will either end up an incredibly successful engineer or a freaking crazy mob boss. It's fascinating to wonder about authors and their characters. Even if we don't mean to, I think we pull from our friends. Things that are said, jokes that are made. Nervous habits. I was reading something I wrote for Alpha last year and noticed just how many of my characters ran hands through their hair, or twisting their hair, or pulling at it, when they were upset or thinking or nervous. When I watch my friends, I see the same movement. It's a stress thing, I think, and in debate, that's one of the few nervous ticks you'll see demonstrated time and time again in hallways. 
The other most recent notice of good characters comes by Hunger Games. Even in the movie, the characters has things about them that make them breathe. When watching the movie, you can ignore everything else and realize just how freaking adorable Josh Hutcherson is see Peeta or Cinna or Rue or Haymitch and realize just how good Suzanne Collins' characters are.
I don't know. It's interesting to think about.
Anyway. More later. And for now, go watch Hunger Games.
(Seriously, now. Why haven't you already?)