Writing Challenge: Deepen Your Characters With This Technique

Photo: Gali, Flickr

Photo: Gali, Flickr

What makes chocolate the darling of the dessert world? What separates it from mere confectionary? My theory: chocolate doesn’t pander. It has the audacity to be bitter. It’s exactly that undercurrent of bitterness that swathes it in the complexity and range so worthy of food faddists and traditionalists alike. Its contradictions give it the depth of flavor that grab our attention, seduce the palate, linger on our lips. And hips. And thighs. Well, you get the picture.

So if you’re stuck with a bland character, think of her opposing traits. Toni Morrison does not shirk from such contradictions in Sula. The womanizing Ajax dumps our girl Sula because she’s just showed him some extra love: “He looked around and saw the gleaming kitchen and the table set for two and detected the scent of the nest. Every hackle on his body rose and he knew that very soon she would, like all of her sisters before her, put to him the death-knell question “Where you been?”

Could Ajax get any more acerbic? And yet, Morrison doesn’t relegate him to purely bitter notes. She sweetens him with glimpses into his fears of a “death-knell” and his “regret” in knowing he has to leave Sula. Long-term relationships feel like a slow death to him. And knowing he must break up with Sula, “[h]is eyes dimmed with a mild and momentary regret.” By giving us his vulnerabilities as well as his guardedness, Morrison rescues from being a plain vanilla villain.

Suffering from a bland character? Spice him up with a contradictory ingredient. Or, you know, just have some chocolate. It’s inspiring, I swear.

Writing Challenge

Identify your character’s dominant trait or tendency then throw her into an undesirable situation. Show your character saying, doing, thinking or feeling something she typically does not say, do, think or feel.


About Mei Li Ooi

Writer. Editor. Diet Rebel.

One Response to “Writing Challenge: Deepen Your Characters With This Technique”

  1. i am grateful expressing this ideas on your blog,

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