An excerpt from my script review for Bone Tomahawk which will be available 10/26/15:
3.) Quality of Characters
Aside from the dramatically over detailed intros given for characters, which we’ll cover in a second, the lesson to take away here is be consistent with your characters.
Right from the start he’s a take charge style character, which makes sense for a lawman.
The consistency comes from his ending conversations with Nick and Chicory, who are his deputies.
A simple line of “deputy” stops both of them from arguing on more than one occasion, a point which was fantastic and I appreciated.
On the other hand, we’re introduced to Brooder, who dresses nice and seems quite the lady’s man in Glory Hole (or whatever the town’s name was).
But suddenly on page 54, Brooder comes off like the Professor on Gilligan’s Island with his big, fancy way of talkin’.
That’s fine if you want your character to walk, talk, and act this way, but BE CONSISTENT. You can’t be midway through your story and shift characteristics on us.
(You knew it was coming with this being a western.)
As writers, it’s our job to assign value to each and every word on the page.
If even one of them doesn’t drive the story forward, we owe it to the reader to eliminate it.
Introducing characters is no different.
Only those traits that directly relate to the story should be included.
A character has a big nose? Fine, but the only reason that’s mentioned better be because he has trouble breathing or snores loudly which somehow ties into the plot.
Same with clothing. Want your character to have a certain style about him? It better directly contrast with your other characters and/or lead to conflict.
Anything less, and you cut it. Sorry, but your personal preference is insignificant next to the power of your plot.
Seated upon the couch and reading a newspaper is ARTHUR O’DWYER, a handsome sun-bronzed twenty-nine-year old with loose tan clothing, dishevelled light-brown hair, a sizable nose, a thick broom mustache, a frown and a swollen right shin that is bound by three wooden braces and propped up on a settee.
The ONLY trait stated there relevant to the plot? Arthur’s injured leg.
The doors to the saloon open and through them strides JOHN
BROODER, a strong and uncommonly handsome forty-year-old
fellow who has sharp blue eyes, a clean-shaven face, light
blonde hair, big fists, a confident gait and a gray suit.
Here? Brooder’s “uncommonly handsome” adding “the wives in town know it, and so does he”.
SHERIFF FRANKLIN HUNT, a solidly-built fifty-six-year-old fellow with silver hair, brown eyes, a thin mouth, a neat beard, tanned skin, brown slacks and a patched blue undershirt, pulls a WHISTLING kettle from a black iron stove top. Into the room walks CHICORY, a tall, gaunt, seventy-one year old fellow who has big eyes, wild hair, a bushy beard that begs inhabitants and a ratty olive-colored suit.
None of this attributed to who the characters really were. Hunt is the no nonsense sheriff, and Chicory is the “backup deputy” who respects the hell out of him.
Writing Exercise – What would you change to present these characters in a more whitespace friendly manner? Checking your own writing, are your character details clean and efficient?
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