How to nail character interactions

How to nail character interactions

1.First, know your characters.

Flesh out your characters, who are they? What do they want? what are their goals? What can’t they stand? What do they like? Any cool talents or abilities. What are their strengths? Weakness? Flaws? (No one’s perfect)

I emphasize fleshing them out because once you have what your character is like down, scenes and dialogue can practically write themselves as they flow more organically.

Suddenly for scenes you’ll know how they’ll react to a situation and you’ll be able to keep their personality consistent and genuine.

Examples:

Scenario 1: A Character bumps into someone and spills the other guy’s coffee then gets yelled at.

A shy pacifist character would probably apologize to avoid confrontation.

A short-tempered character might try to pick a fight.

But you wouldn’t expect the shy character to deck the other person or that would be out of character.

Scenario 2: Character gets cornered by bad guys with weapons.

A winged character would take off with a flap of their wings.

A character with the ability to run fast would dash out of there while dodging projectiles.

A character with laser vision could fight back and try to incinerate them with a single glare.

But the character with wing wouldn’t try to use laser vision or fly because he doesn’t have those abilities.

Please, stay consistent with your characters! The only exception I can think of for a character to break character would be for special plot reason like to magnify emotion or portray a character as purposefully aloof, would be to allude or foreshadow something, but even then this can backfire.

If you’d like to read more about fleshing out your characters I recommend checking out this other post I typed. Although it mainly focuses on protagonists, a lot of what’s said can apply to characters in general: https://fularrii.com/2017/12/23/5-quick-ways-to-make-your-protagonist-more-solid/

2.Frame the scene

When you’re writing the scene your characters are in consider these elements:

-Setting: Where is the scene taking place? A dimly lit forest? A crowded bar full of biker dudes? Night time on an empty street with flickering lights? Is it raining? Snowing? How many characters are in the scene? What are your characters currently doing in the scene?

 

-Purpose: Decide the purpose of the scene. Is it reveal a major plot point? To introduce a new conflict? To further establish your character’s personality?

-What will happen? Is something big about to go down? Will there be an emotional heart to heart? Will a fight occur? A betrayal? A death?

-Establish your character’s goal in the scene: Is the character trying to escape something? Is the character trying to figure out how to sneak past some armed guards? Or maybe the character is trying to pry some secrets out of someone or get them to confess to something.

Figure out what your character wants, what character will do to get it, how the other characters will react, and if the character reaches their goal or not as well as the results of their actions.

-Consider the feelings and/or mental state of your characters: Did character A just discover a big secret about their past and is feeling conflicted? Is character B in a bad mood? Is character C tired after a night of dueling monsters? The current mental state of your characters will affect how they talk and react to things.

Examples: -A tired character may not react reasonably to situations or be able to complete tasks. This could be dangerous for things that require concentration or energy.

-An upset character could lash out at others or become withdrawn creating a rift between the character’s friends and the character.

3.Natural Dialogue

Do the characters play off each other? Do they butt heads or get along? Is a character upset? Is one trying to keep the other calm? Are they just joking around or is there some not so hidden malice and resentment underneath a joke?

Their dialogue should reflect their feelings, thoughts, and overall character.

Once more it helps to know your characters so you would know how they would react to other characters and situations.

Example: Compare these three scenes of two characters interacting after one returns home after being attacked by a raccoon.

Scene A:

Character 1:*shocked*“What happened to you?!”

Character 2:“I nearly got mauled by a raccoon and I knocked over a couple trash cans trying to escape.”

Character 1:“You alright?”

Character 2:“Yeah, think I scraped my knee though.”

Scene B:

Character 1:“What happened to you?! You look like you ran through a dumpster then jumped into a sewer.”

Character 2:“I was nearly mauled by a raccoon and I stumbled into some trash cans.”

Character 1:*Bursts out laughing* “you serious?”

Character 2:*glares* “Glad you find it so humorous…”

Scene C:

Character 1:“Hey, you bring back those donuts?”

Character 2:“Seriously? Aren’t you going to ask about why I look like this?”

Character 1:“Oh yeah, what happened?

Character 2:“I stumbled into trash cans after a raccoon attacked me.”

Character 1:Oh…So you didn’t get those donuts?”

Though the story stays consistent all those scenes, the execution and delivery of lines can change depending on the personality of the characters.

Tip: Try watching movies or shows to see how characters naturally play off each other. Feel free to take notes of small things like body language, attitudes, reactions, gestures, and things you may have missed or glanced over on your first watch.

4.Practice: Makeup scenarios

A good way to get better at framing scenes with character is to practice with made up scenarios to see how your character would react.

Possible ways include:

1-Making up a scene

Making up a random scene off the top of your head to place your character in.

Example: Character A is trapped on a boat with the person she hates but they need to get back to shore before a storm hits. How would character A react to this?

2-Character swapping

-Take an already created scene, (from anywhere maybe a movie or something you wrote,) then insert your character and see how they would react to the unfolding scenario.

3-Using an online generator

-Use an online generator to generate a random scenario in which you could place your character(s) into.

I’d highly recommend using this option as random scenarios generated can really catch you off guard and test your writing abilities.

On a final note, characters in general can really make or break a story,  if your characters come off as stilted or unauthentic that can cheapen scenes and break the immersion of your story. With all that being said, thank you for reading and until next time! 🙂

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