The Elements of Fiction: Character

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Lecture on character for an undergraduate general education course in fiction.

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The Elements of Fiction: Character

  1. 1. G-EN270 INTRO TO FICTIONThe Elements of FictionCharacter Bruce Clary, McPherson College, McPherson, Kansas
  2. 2. G-EN270 INTRO TO FICTION“Character is plot, plot is character.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  3. 3. G-EN270 INTRO TO FICTIONConflictWe will not remain long interested in impersonalforces; we demand character.
  4. 4. G-EN270 INTRO TO FICTIONSignificanceWe’re most interested in people. The meaning wetake from stories concerns human nature, humanconduct.
  5. 5. G-EN270 INTRO TO FICTIONCharacter Types• Flat• Stock• Static
  6. 6. G-EN270 INTRO TO FICTIONTypes• Round/Complex • Wide range of emotions • Contradictions, self-doubts, indecision • Characteristics that mark them as unique individuals• Dynamic
  7. 7. G-EN270 INTRO TO FICTIONMethods :: Author’s toolbox• Direct characterization—telling • What the narrative voice tells readers about the character “Wing Biddlebaum, forever frightened and beset by a ghostly band of doubts, did not think of himself as in any way a part of the life of the town where he had lived for twenty years” (27).
  8. 8. G-EN270 INTRO TO FICTIONMethods :: Author’s toolbox• Indirect characterization—showing • What the dramatized scenes show us about character “With a convulsive movement of his body, Wing Biddlebaum sprang to his feet and thrust his hands deep into his trousers pockets. Tears came to his eyes. ‘I must be getting home. I can talk no more with you,’ he said nervously” (29).
  9. 9. G-EN270 INTRO TO FICTIONMethods of indirect characterization• Names • Dialogue/voice• Physical features/ • Habits characteristics • What others say• Clothing, dress • How other characters• Possessions treat, respond to• Actions, choices, • Self-portrait, thoughts decisions
  10. 10. G-EN270 INTRO TO FICTIONUnityNeed for unity is greatest in presentation ofcharacter. Characters must be plausible, commandreader’s belief.
  11. 11. G-EN270 INTRO TO FICTIONMotivationThe whys and hows strong enough to effect thealleged change in character

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