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Character Interaction

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Fri Jan 09, 2009 10:47 pm
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JFW1415 says...

No matter what kind of story you have, you always have some form of character interaction. There are four basic kinds – character and character, character and self, character and nature, and character and society. Characters interact with everything on some level.

Character interaction offers many places to get a story out of. You come up with a character, then see what happens if there's a thunderstorm, or if they're shunned by their peers, or if they have to make themselves do the right thing.

You can never avoid character interaction. Even if you lock your character up in a white-walled room with cushioned floors, they have their own mind to interact with – to go crazy with.

Character and Self

Character and self is a pretty basic form of interaction, and one that's always there. You can never escape your own mind.

A lot of the character and self is about your conscience. It's what tells you 'this is wrong,' and it's up to you whether you should do it or not.

However, character and self often overlaps with character and character. You're mind is telling you not to do something (character and self), but you do it anyway, because it's best for the other person (character and character).

- In Harry Potter by JK Rowling, Harry has to leave Ginny. Does he love her? Of course. But he thinks it's for her own good – he can't have Voldemort killing her. So even though he can't stand the thought of being without her, he makes himself do it.
- In The Pact by Jodi Picoult, Chris shoots Emily. He loves her so much, but he can't stand to see her suffer any longer. He forces himself to think of her rather than himself, and makes himself do the unthinkable, since she can't do it herself.

Character and Character

Character and character overlaps with character and self a lot. Whatever choice you make will effect others, so it's nearly impossible not to. Therefore, the following examples can be argued to be either self or character.

- In Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger, Gio and Marisol are able to become close to others through each other. Gio isn't used to being close to people – his own mother won't even hug him – and Marisol feels being close to someone isn't safe. As their friendship grows, they become increasingly close. But Marisol is gay, so even though Gio loves her, she'll never love him more than a friend. They have to learn to accept the kind of love the other feels for them, and they learn that they can be close to someone.
- In My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult, Anna decides to stop giving donations to her sister. It's hard for her – it means Kate will die – but it's what Kate wants, and Anna doesn't want to watch her sister in pain any longer.

Character and Nature

Character and Nature is one you don't see nearly as often, and tends not to have such a harsh effect. It's things like a hurricane preventing you from getting on a plane, or a thunderstorm meaning you can't swim. They affect you, but they tend not to be the center of many stories.

- In Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen, Cole is a very angry teenager. He ends up on an island by himself – it was that or jail. He gets mauled by the Spirit Bear and lies close to death for days. He survives off the island – eating bugs – and is hurt by the island – birds picking at his open wounds. The Spirit Bear comes just before he's taken off the island, and Cole touches his fur. He decides to change, and when he comes back, he slowly learns to let go of his anger and live with the island.
- In Balto and the Great Race by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel, Balto and the dog sled team have to fight through the snowstorm to get to Nome, Alaska.

Character and Society

The most common thing I think of when I hear character and society is racism. It's an obvious answer – one race rejects another. It doesn't have to just be races, though. It can be a gay person being tormented by his peers. It can be a retarded child looked down upon. Anyone who is slightly different than the 'general population' stands to be part of this category.

- In Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, werewolves won't accept vampires.
- In Go Ask Alice by Anonymous, Alice feels like the whole world is against her. She thinks they're all trying to keep her on drugs, and with all that pressure, she often returns to drugs.
- In Eragon by Christopher Paolini, the Varden didn't accept Murtagh into their town because he was the son of an evil Dragon Rider.

Many authors use these interactions subconsciously, but if you ever get stuck, return to them. They offer many plot twists that can help you get through the story, and can offer a realism to your writing you may not have if you leave a lot out.

However, these interactions can be good, too. A character can be feeling awful, then go outside and feel all their worries wash away, just by looking at the nice summer day. Two people can fall in love. You can look within yourself and make the right choice.

I hope this helped you a little bit, and feel free to leave thoughts on this and more examples here. I'm just an aspiring author – certainly no expert – and would love to hear your feedback.


*Note: JabberHut helped with a few of those examples, so I can't take all the credit. :)

I cannot separate the aesthetic pleasure of seeing a butterfly and the scientific pleasure of knowing what it is.
— Vladmir Nabokov