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Johne

How To Use Hurt For Deeper Characterization

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How your character handles pain tells the reader a lot about them.
https://thewritepractice.com/characterization-pain/

 

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Injury Reveals Character

We’ve talked before about how scars and wounds can create backstory. An accident or disease can create the impetus for an entire story (If I Stay or The Fault in Our Stars). But inflicting a minor injury on a character can be an interesting way to show who they are while you create a story complication. 

My allusion to Monty Python is a good example (although if you haven’t seen it, my description of what happens is going to feel anything but minor). 

In the parody Monty Python and the Holy Grail, King Arthur attempts to build a court in Camelot. Along the way, he faces the Black Knight who will not let him pass through the forest. King Arthur fights the Black Knight. In one exchange, Arthur cuts off the Black Knight’s arm (resulting in a small spurt of stage blood), and when Arthur declares victory, the Black Knight counters,

“It’s just a flesh wound!” 

They continue to fight, and only when he’s lost all his limbs does the Black Knight concede with, “We’ll call it a draw.”

What do we learn about the Black Knight? He will not give up. At the end of the scene, he is still shouting at Arthur to come back and fight instead of running away like a coward. That’s powerful characterization.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

In one of my vampire stories, a woman has recently become undead, and is very tempted to bite certain guys she's known personally, for a number of years.

She refuses to give in, saying, "Just because I'm now a vampire, it doesn't mean that can't still be a responsible, law abiding citizen, who only drinks bottled pigs blood for nourishment." 

   

Edited by William D'Andrea

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4 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

Now that is a funny example!

 

I'd post the clip, but it has always conflicted me. I consider it a hilarious scene, all while turning my stomach. :(  

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As children we would get hurt and my father would go, "A mere flesh wound!"

It was years before I realized where the quote came from.

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The Black Knight is a classic, though I understand why the scene can be a little-stomach turning! My family quotes it fairly often as well. (Unfortunately I have also accidentally made "NI!" one of my default responses to displeasure, lol).

 

On the topic at hand though, I have often heard that, apart from allowing for character development, putting your characters through trials can encourage audience empathy for them as well. 

Edited by PenName
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Once upon a time I set out to write a story set after the Rapture.  My imagination failed in a world without pain!  

I meet people who deny there is any pain in their lives.  Bad things happen to them just the same, but they learn nothing, develop nothing, grow no maturity. 

I have a very high pain tolerance and I think I pass this on to my characters.  Thanks for making me think about this.  Perhaps I'll need to write a little deeper about it.  

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Interesting thought, that you feel the reason your friends have not matured or learned much from the suffering in their lives is because they deny its existence, or at least its seriousness. Maybe being able to accept that some of the things that have happened to you are truly bad is the best way to learn from them.

This never occurred to me before.
I've always felt I had no business being bothered by "bad stuff," that was the prerogative (or burden) of others.

But I don't like to think I'm likely to repeat some of those lessons!

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