Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Power -- Another Dynamic of Characterization

I read an interesting article recently that I've been thinking about and will (I hope) continue to ponder as I start my next WIP.

The article suggested a way of thinking about characterization that I hadn't thought of before, and in hindsight was kind of surprised that I hadn't.

The author of the article (once again I'm embarrassed to admit I can't remember who it was and don't have a link) was pointing out how, in most situations, one person has more power than the others. And this might change depending on the situation. Example off the top of my head... A mother and a five-year-old: usually the mother has the power in that dynamic, but in a stressful situation, in public, the five-year-old might actually have more power temporarily (and realize he can manipulate mom into buying a treat to hold off a temper tantrum.)

The suggestion was to use this power dynamic to add 3 dimensionality to characters. The boss might be a powerful person, used to always getting his way, but put him with his mother or sister, or older brother, or lover and it might be different. (Or even more extreme.) Point is, he would react differently to different people an in different situations.

Also, playing with the power dynamic clearly creates and/or escalates conflict.

I suppose this is just another way of looking at things, but I found it interesting. Reading the article made me think about my last ms and it's something I'll keep in mind as I do my final revisions for that ms and start the second book in that series. My main character has some serious trust issues. She's been orphaned for 3 years and although she's only 16, she's used to making all the decisions for herself and her brother. When she's thrown into situations where she needs the help of others, in my first draft I mostly made her belligerent, which made sense to me. I figured the way she'd react to losing her power to control her brother's safety would be anger and distrust and stubbornness. What I don't think I thought about enough was showing her in situations of power more often, or portraying more clearly how she feels when she loses power... At least I'm worried that I didn't show those things well enough.

Is the question of who's got the power something you ever think about when writing/revising scenes?

7 comments:

Eileen said...

Not until now! That's VERY interesting and will be super helpful in what I'm working on now. Thank you, Maureen!

Sinead M said...

That is terrific, really something interesting to think about...

and Maureen, did you really post that at 7:30am? Really?

Eileen said...

I keep thinking about this. The power struggle thing is interesting. I know some people who view everything like that. Even child rearing. It's not generally how I view things which means it's something that I'm missing when looking at my character's interactions.

I have a heroine who is a school counselor. So with the kids, she would be the one with the power, but when she has to deal with the police? Or with the reporter who is pursuing a story on the campus? Maybe not . . . How would that make her feel?

Stephanie Doyle said...

This makes me laugh because people tease me about it all the time.

When I'm at work I'm in control, the boss and leader.

When I'm with my mother... I'm five again.

Maureen McGowan said...

Lol, Sinead. I usually schedule my posts ahead of time. :). But 7:30 is when Felix rose. :)

Maureen McGowan said...

I don't think about life in terms of power, either, Eileen. But interestingly, well to me, my Masters research was on new technology acceptance and one of the main bits was on how technology was changing socio-power structures in offices. That's why I was surprised I hadn't thought of it before.

Ryshia Kennie said...

I think of it when I'm trying to make sure my hero hasn't become a wimp. But I never thought about the ability to interchange power or that it does. I will now.

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