Monday, May 14, 2012

Characterization: A sort of mental squint

I say I can sit there and Do Nothing, but the truth is, even when I'm not physically writing, my brain is. One way in which I can boast of being like Elizabeth Bennet is that I am unusually accurate in first impressions. You see, I like to sit and make people's character out. I challenge myself to garner a proper first impression of a person and to afterward observe them and see if I came close. I generally am fairly accurate. :D
A rather fun exercise (and something I do compulsively most of the time) is to describe people you meet as characters from books. I had ample opportunity to amuse myself this way the past few weekends as I was down amongst a whole group of strangers working on a wedding. All you have to do is look at people with a sort of mental squint and capture it in words. Really, it's a great way to practice characterization--I prescribe one round of doing this at least once a month to freshen things up. :)

       "She studied him as he stood on the ladder and fiddled with the lights on the stage. A tall, well-built young man. Young. And immature. She smiled to herself over the quick pronouncement, but she knew she was right. Only youth carried a splendid figure with that loose, careless gait. As he turned she caught sight of his face. He was not handsome--or was he? She could not make up her mind as to the whole of him, and as he dismounted the ladder and strode up the aisle she examined his individual features. Straight, white teeth and quick smile--very nice. Brown eyes with long lashes--lashes too long for a gent, but still pleasant to behold. A fine nose.
        She settled back in her chair and bit her lip, eyebrows crinkled. Every feature in the young man's face was regular and handsome. How then, did he fail to please her?"

"The tall, lanky fellow lazed into the room. She'd been warned of him--told he was a charmer, a flirt, a wit. And as he made his round of the girls in the room, voice loud and bold and smooth, she knew what she had heard was true. Here was a man who demanded a full measure of attention from everyone in the room and who would get it or perish in the attempt. Yes, he was, she did not like him at all."

(And no--I don't generally find such fault with people. I examined quite a few more and found them charming. ;)


Anne-girl said...

I love doing this too!

The Mad Elvish Poet said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who does this! I always catch myself thinking like that.

Anonymous said...

I can't say that I think exactly along those lines when I take my first impressions of someone but I do get very distinct first impressions. (usually wrong) I often liken myself to Mr. Darcy; it is a lot easier for someone to convince me that I don't like them, than it is for them to convince me that I do like them. I don't really like that but it is the unfortunate truth.
Wyatt Fairlead

Jenny Freitag said...

As you probably know already, Rachel, I can't do this. Or, I don't do this; I don't know if I could do it if I put my mind to it: such particular assessment of strangers doesn't occur to me. You know I tend to err on the intuitive side and am often guided by my feelings. Like Mr. Fairlead I do form first impressions (unlike Mr. Fairlead I'm not usually given a chance to find out whether I am right or wrong); and while I am usually naturally amiable and like being friendly, it takes a lot of convincing to make me genuinely attach liking to a person.

But you seem to like my characters, so I must know something about people. >.>