Writing About PeopleNotes from Art and Artifact by Lynn Z. Bloom
Why write about people?
Know your subject.
React strongly to your subject.
Tell the truth.
Select material to reinforce your focus.
Show don’t tell.
Make private references public.
Use an appropriate pattern of organization.
Demonstrate why readers should share your attitude.
Four Approaches to Characterization• Descriptive• Dramatic• Impressionistic• Historical or contextual
Descriptive Approach• What are the dominant features of the subject’s character and temperament?• What kind of mind does the subject have?• How does the subject look?• What kind of language does the subject use?• What are the subject’s activities?
Dramatic Approach• Show actions in dramatic scenes.• Present thoughts in dramatic monologues.• Use dialogue to convey dramatic relationships.
Creating Dramatic Dialogue• Listen for the speaker’s characteristic sentence pattern, cadence, rhythm, and emphasis.• Determine the general level of vocabulary: formal, slangish, abstract or concrete, simple or complex.• Aim for the essence of the speech and apply adverbs or other directions: She squealed.• Use dialect sparingly.• Read your dialogue to another person or have them read it to you.
Impressionistic Approach• Don’t elaborate on a single element, but take the scraps of information that you have and weave them into an impressionistic portrait.
Historical or Contextual Approach• Focus on the background: familial, racial, national, regional, political, economic, religious, social, intellectual, aesthetic and geographic.
What is the subject’s background and heritage?
What is the subject’s physical location?
Is the subject the member of a group?
To what social class does the subject belong?
What are the subject’s values and way of life?
What education has this person had?
What kind of taste does the subject have?
Research your Subjects historical background.• Use primary and secondary sources.