My Peace Day “Celebration”
Yesterday was Peace Day, and I decided to celebrate it by making peace with someone I had been fighting with a lot recently. It had really taken a toll on my mood, along with several other things, and I learned a lot more about this person than I originally thought I would have. And believe it or not, I think what I learned could come in very handy with, you guessed it, character development!
I’ll not prattle on, but the gist of things was I was feeling down, and I felt that he, being someone close to me, wasn’t do anything to help cheer me up. To me, it seems obvious that when I tell a friend that I’m feeling [insert negative feeling here], he (as all my friends are male) should know that I want to be comforted. From his point of view, however, it really wasn’t that apparent.
Everyone is different. When I’m feeling down, I want to have some alone time with a good friend to escape from reality and give my mind a rest. Other people want to be completely alone, and others still want to surround themselves with people. Since being depressed is out-of-character for me, my friend didn’t know how to react. He knew I was down, I told him so, but he didn’t know what he could do to help me.
He suggested we do something together, which I immediately agreed to, but he had to finish some other things first. So I found a way to entertain myself in the meantime. He saw that I found something to do, and thought he would be courteous and leave me to it. I, on the other hand, thought he had forgotten about me and thus felt worse than I did before. He thought he was being considerate, I thought he was being a jerk. We argued, and he thought it would be best he left me alone, whereas I wished he would pay more attention to me. Much of last week went on like that.
I learned all that and more yesterday after I plainly laid out everything that was on my mind. We had a wonderful talk and though I ended up going to bed later than I should have, I’m quite happy with how my Peace Day turned out. I made peace with an amazing friend, and we understand each other far better.
So how does this relate to character development?
Doesn’t it irritate you when a character figures everything out with the most obscure bits of information? It irritates me, though I hadn’t realized I was expecting my friend to do just that. How could anyone possibly know the solution when the clues are an orange and a rake? If your character knows, s/he seems highly unbelievable, which separates the reader from the story. I’ll give you a scenario from God-Chosen to illustrate this.
Everyone thinks Lucian is dead, as he has been for the past thousand years. Only a very select few know that he was reborn. Felix, an old friend of Lucian’s, is one of those select few. Astari, one of Amara’s mentors, is not. Astari stumbled upon Felix and saved his life. The following are bits of their subsequent conversation, told from Astari’s PoV:
“Thank you for saving me, Lady Astari.” Felix said.
“We have never met, and yet you know my name? I suppose there are not very many blind light-users among our ranks, are there?”
“None as renowned as you.”
In this case, I think Felix does have the information he needs to determine with whom he speaks–Astari’s eyes would show that she is blind, and Felix saw her use light magic. I’ve yet to determine precisely how many Sol-Kolnoran demons there are, a few hundred or a few hundred thousand, and that could greatly determine the conversation’s believability. Since I’m leaning on the minimal side, Felix could conceivably know who she is with just those two pieces of information.
This piece is a bit more far-fetched:
“I caught wind that a friend of mine was in need of an exorcist,” Felix said, “which lead me here. Well, a friend needed my help to exorcise his wife.”
Wife? Astari’s mind cycled through the possibilities. A man and his wife? Not sightseers, for sure, but if marriage is illegal between partners or among team members… Unless… The information stunned Astari.
“Lucian. Lucian is alive. The only one capable of possessing Amara would be…” Astari’s heart sank, “Sirúnna?”
Astari managed to piece everything together with the only clue being Felix’s exorcised his friend’s wife. Yet Astari correctly gathered that his friend was Lucian, his wife was Amara, and the demon was Sirunna. Again, it would be easier to determine the believability here if I had a better understanding of how many demons there actually are, but it does seem a bit far-fetched that she could understand the situation so wholly with that single clue.
The trouble here is that it’s apparent to me, the writer, and to you, the reader, because we saw all that happen. So while Astari sits there and wonders, we want to scream the answer to her. Where, then, is the balance between a clueless character you want to slap and an inconceivably omniscient one? I think in this case, I need to either add more information to show that the answer would be clear, or have Astari struggle with finding the right answer.
Do your characters seem to know more than they conceivably could? Do they have unbelievable knowledge of the world with no explanation of how the achieved it? Or do you teeter on the other end, where the answer stares your characters in the face but they still can’t see it? Have you managed to find a balance between the two extremes? If so, how?