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Character Development: Speech

CHARACTER development is a vast and varied subject and the cornerstone of any great fiction. We discussed a lot about characterization the first time, and we moved on to discussing a character's motive, personality and past in making him who he is. We focus on character's physical description, what got him where he is, and saying more with less. If your character is going to be interesting and have the empathy of your readers, they must be fully developed and must come alive and most importantly they must be real. This month we have skimmed the surface of this topic, with two prior articles on character development, focusing on physical description and motive, past, personality; hopefully you will use these tips as a platform to only investigate further, and not strictly adhere by only them. There's only so much one can be taught. The remaining, majority of the path is to be paved by your own hands.

A fellow reader once told me something that never left my head. She said that even though you may not have tag lines, each of your characters' voices should be so unique that the reader will be able to tell who is speaking. And this is extremely important to good writing.

Once you develop your character's personality, a unique voice should follow suit. Each of your characters will have a different way of saying things. For example, even saying hello-

"Hello."

"Hi."

"'Sup?"

"Howdy."

"Hey."

"Good morning."

All of these convey the same sentiment, but each tells you a little something about the character. "Hello" may be used by a character who is business-like or proper. "Good morning," may be used by a character who is cultured and erudite. "'Sup?" may be used by a relaxed character or a friend. Perhaps your character wouldn't say anything but make a gesture or a wave. It doesn't matter, just as long as it is something unique to your character.

This goes back to the basics- choice of words. The English language is full of synonyms- words that mean the same thing but convey something slightly different. Jump and Hop are examples- they both basically mean the same thing but jump has the connotation of going vertical and hop has a connotation of moving forward. One of the things you should do, and many teachers my disagree, is get a thesaurus because different characters use different words to convey the same thing.

You should also think about the intelligence level of each of your characters. An uneducated character, whether a child or otherwise isn't going to use long words- at least, not properly and correctly. An educated character will have a more varied vocabulary than an uneducated one.

Not only will each character use a different set of words, but the way those words are said affects the way a character is portrayed. Yes, we are back to grammar again. An educated character will be using proper grammar, while an uneducated one would not. You can also mix things up when you have characters from different cultures. Imagine your character is Bangladeshi. Depending on how old that character was when he learned English and how well he speaks English, he may not speak proper grammar by English standards- though, it may be proper Bengali grammar. An educated character, if he does not know the English language or vice versa may not speak properly.

This is where we end our three-part discussion on character development. I hope we've all come a little bit forward from when we started out. This isn't, however, the last of the writing tutorials or tip articles you'll see printed in the Rising Stars. So watch out for more.

By Ahsan Sajid


Book Review

Simple Gifts

AFTER all the knights and dragons over the past few weeks, a change in gears seemed absolutely essential. While last week's Catcher in the Rye was a deeply satisfying read, with the first week of fasting-induced sleep-starvation and hunger, the reading palate demands something less...cerebral, and, if one may be so bold, rather mindless. From that thought, it's only a hop, skip and jump towards the genre of romance. Now, while a full-blown romance is too much of a sugar rush, bite-sized helpings of short stories are just the right snack, and "Simple Gifts", featuring the awesome twosome Judith McNaught and Jude Deveraux, fit the bill perfectly.

The collection features two stories by each author. In "Miracles", Mcnaught borrows a significant minor character from her Regency London series ("Whitney, my Love", "Paradise", etc) to create one of her impossibly convenient plots, featuring a jaded nobleman and a naive debutante, a shocking proposal, a merry mishap, and plenty of cross connections to spice it up. In "Double Exposure", she shifts to a more contemporary setting, featuring a talented young photographer, and a cynical tycoon meeting after a decade apart and discovering that an adolescent infatuation had actually been a precursor to a lasting love.

Deveraux provides the perfect foil to Mcnaught's formulaic couplings with "Change of Heart", in which a horizontally-blessed and rather gullible divorcee and a disgruntled invalid billionaire are brought together by the machinations of a genius twelve-year old. "Just Curious" features a young widower and her overbearing boss, both of whom are licking their wounds after recent heartbreaks and find mutual comfort in one another's company.

Perfect coincidences, conveniently romantic supporting casts, and pretty much no-holds-barred frills create the setting for each of these stories. The protagonists have personalities perfectly attuned to one another, the heroes go overboard in their courtship, while the heroines are naive enough to fall for it, while at the same time, extremely fortunate not to have to end up regretting it. The stories are shamelessly escapist, and meant to be taken with a pinch of salt. Yet, it is precisely their unreal canvases that make them enjoyable. For an hour or so, you can suspend your cynicism and disbelief, and actually believe in happy endings. What better way to count down to iftar?

By Sabrina F Ahmad
sabera.jade@gmail.com

Don't I Know You, Tess Durbeyfield?

IN an age where popular literature brings to mind the writings of Jhumpa Lahiri, Stephen King and Terry Pratchett, among others, I know that it may seem unusual to direct my attention to a turn-of the-century classic that too, of a writer whose wordiness ranks near Charles Dickens and the Bronte sisters. However, even the best of contemporary authors cannot often provide the historical perspective needed to appreciate many issues that they address. In such cases, it helps to turn to the past itself not dry facts and figures but the words of one who lived in yesteryears and can offer firsthand information with feeling.

After all, writers throughout history have explored similar themes of societal and human philosophies. On this note, I ask you to bear with me as I tell you of Thomas Hardy's 'Tess of the D'urbervilles', and then judge for yourselves whether the image of Hardy's 'Pure woman, faithfully presented' is really as passé as its time allows.

Tess Durbeyfield is introduced as a maiden of 16, living in a small rural community. When her family finds itself in a crisis, it is left to Tess to help earn a living. However, in her efforts to find help from rich relations, she is led to the family of the unprincipled Alec D'urberville, with whom she supposedly shares the ancestry of one of the oldest families of the area. Alec develops a strong attraction toward his innocent 'cousin' and, within a few weeks of her stay, rapes her. Tess returns home expecting his child, only to be rebuked by her parents for not having married him to relieve them of their financial troubles.

After the birth and eventual death of her baby, Tess leaves again to escape judgement from the community. She begins her life anew as a dairymaid, far away from home. However, her happiness is short-lived for here she falls in love with the flighty Angel Clare who is likewise infatuated. Despite Tess's misgivings, they marry. It is on the wedding night that Tess tells Angel about Alec, expecting him understand after having confessed about an affair that he had had some months ago. Yet, in sharp contrast to her consideration, Angel feels betrayed as his idealized image of Tess is shattered, and he soon abandons her.

Henceforth, fate, her past and the 'homme fatale' continue to conspire against her, with her father's death, her family becoming social outcasts and Alec's return. It is only near the end that this ill-starred girl, in desperation, gains a small victory but, even then, one for which she pays dearly.

Now, having read the plot in a nutshell, recall the last few cases you heard on women or girls being mistreated or humiliated. Be she a single mother with an illegitimate child, an acid victim or a family's sole breadwinner with an abusive employer, you will notice, as I have, that there are many women who can relate to some aspect of Tess' life. The statement that Hardy made a hundred years ago, defying the conventions of censorship, still applies in our society where such sordid issues are often evaded. Yet, whilst Hardy's story is still remembered, the only chances of immortality for many modern-day Tesses are as statistics, simply because their stories are no longer new.

Even though many have addressed this subject, the fact that this was an issue a century ago should bring home the awareness that this should have gone out of fashion with the slave trade and apartheid, not be a norm in today's world.

By Risana Nahreen Malik

 

 
 

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