Monday, April 25, 2011


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by Ruby Johnson

Character is revealed by action when emotional responses are also revealed.

It is important to show whether there is a difference between what the character does and what he thinks. If someone is being kind and smiling, is it because that person is truly kind and happy? Or is he doing something nice in order to get something for himself?

You need to show the character's feelings about what he or she is doing.
Example: I interviewed a woman for a secretarial position in my office. Her name was Judy. Judy had hair that hung below her waist, wore no makeup, and dressed like a flower child in the sixties. Her husband drove her to work in a red truck with a bumper sticker that read "Italian Stallion". I saw her everyday in the office of the Boss from Hell. She was always smiling and pleasant. She had beautiful telephone manners and typed over 120 words a minute. Every Boss's day she always bought a card and got others to contribute for flowers for him. She would always tell him how much she appreciated his help and guidance.

I commented, "I always thought you were happy working there."

She looked me straight in the eye with that smile on her face and said,"It was all put-on."

That got me to thinking about the faces we show outwardly versus the feelings we really have.

For instance, if I write a description of Judy taking the flowers in and arranging them on her boss's desk, unless I reveal how Judy feels writing the card and arranging the flowers, you might think she likes her boss. Knowing that she is disgusted with herself and thinks about the boss being hit by a train on the way to work changes your view of the character.

Character is revealed by self-discovery:
Perhaps your character thinks he is one way but something happens to show him that he is not that way at all. Judy might have thought she was genuinely nice and good to overlook the bad behavior of the boss from hell by buying flowers etc on boss's day. Maybe she catches a glimpse of herself arranging flowers and sees she isn't so nice and caring. In reality, maybe she is trying to lull him into thinking she is no threat so she can really make trouble for him. This self-discovery would indicate something about Judy's personality.

By the way, Judy didn't last long in my office either. She cut off her hair, put on makeup,got new clothes, divorced her "Italian Stallion" husband and ran off to Alabama with a new man.

What do you do to reveal your character?

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