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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Character Clinic: Rebekah Rose

Ashley's character, Rebekah, is on the couch today. She's 16 and featured in a YA. Rebekah has loving parents and a sweet baby sister she'd do anything for. She's a Christian, straight-A student, and follower of all rules. When she was 10, she was playing hide-and-seek with her younger sister Rachel. She couldn't find her when time was up, and later discovered that she'd been kidnapped. This has stayed with Bekah for 5 years, and she's having a hard time letting go of it because she was to have been watching Rachel.

Ashley wants to know: Why is Bekah so unlikeable? Is it really plausible that she would be this affected by her sister's kidnapping so many years later? What's it going to take for other people to want to be her friend? 

Bekah -

You sound a little straight-laced. I bet your friends call you uptight or Goody Two Shoes, huh? But I get why you're that way. Such a traumatic experience that happened when you were so impressionable--makes following the rules now a must. You feel that somehow you failed to follow the rules and expectations placed before you to watch your sister. Now you pay her tribute in following the rules in everything you do. If only you'd followed the rules five years ago, right? It also lessens your own anxiety to do so. Rules give you a sense of balance and order in the chaos.

At the age of 10, you'd feel an extreme responsibility for Rachel. Even if you'd watch the man kidnap her, helpless to do anything, you'd not understand that it wasn't your fault. Children this age often blame themselves for any issues in their parent's relationship, so this makes sense. Yes, you'll carry it with you. Sort of in the back of your mind always.

The bigger question it looks like you're struggling with is how to come across likable on the page. Straight arrows are needed in the world, but they sure are dull. (I hate to harp on a stereotype, but as my husband and I like to say, stereotypes are based in reality.) Donald Maass says to think of the one thing your character would never do, say, or think, and write a scene with them doing, saying, or thinking those very things. This makes them layered, just like a REAL person!

What if you had one aspect of your personality that was the polar opposite of straight-laced? Like, how about you run a blog that's for Christian teens that's super popular? Your alter ego, so to speak? The person you wish you could be--the person you would be had your sister not gone missing. The reader would totally grasp at that dichotomy that you're presenting, and you'd be more likeable to them for sure. As for your need for friends in the book, I imagine little aspects of your alter would slip out here and there, endearing them to you as well.

Give it a shot and let me know hot it goes. Hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today. If you want to go deeper, like into your family structure and the slight improbability that all things would be peachy after the loss of a child in this manner, click here.

For a chance to win Laura Frantz's latest release, The Colonel's Lady, click here!


Dr. Cheryl Carvajal said...

Great stuff! And perfection is rarely that likable, really. Her mistake long ago is too forgivable to deepen her, too. I love your suggestions!

G Blechman said...

Great advice. I find the best way to layer a character is just to really sit with them one day and start digging into their life and past. What was her first kiss like? Did she have one? What does she dream it will be like than? What's her earliest memory of her sister. Her family as a whole? Her family without her sister? What does she crave in a friend? What does she hate about herself? What trait or ability could make her more successful or liked if she only gave herself the chance? If you ask these sorts of questions and write down the answers, you'll be surprised at what you learn.

<3 Gina Blechman

Kristen said...

Really fun!
I like what Donald Maase said. That is really interesting and something I will have to think on in regards to my own characters.

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.