How to build a 3D character for your novel.

I’m sharing everything I’ve learned. Part 2. Sociology.

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Part 1 here.
Part 3
here.

Just to recap, characters in novels can be flat i.e. little more than cardboard cutouts with few facets or fascinations. 3D characters require much more. Lajos Egris suggested in his book ‘The Art of Dramatic Writing’ -that a well rounded character is made up of three components: the physiological, the sociological, and the psychological.

In part 1, I worked out most of Hanna’s physiological aspects. In part 2, I’m going to figure out her sociological dimensions.

These cover where she is in her social environment such as: where she went to school, what subjects she took. We need to know what her home life looks like, does she live alone or with a companion?

What are her hobbies and habits? Virtues and vices? Is she political? Where did she come from? East, West, North or South?

We need to know pretty much everything Hanna does to belong to the people and places around her. I daresay this is akin to sculpting; you take unformed clay or a blank page -an infinite palette, and begin to shape your character. That’s what it feels like to me.

Sociological influences:

Hanna grew up on an Caribbean island. (I have to write what I know right?) She’s half Indian, half American. Her father grew up in a small city in Florida and met her mother on a family vacation when he had just turned 21.

Maybe it was the music, maybe it was the Carnival, Maybe it was the rum. She was conceived on a hotel bed on a tiny island North of Venezuela.

Her father never knew her. He returned to the USA with fond memories and bright future that found him practicing dentistry in his own office going through one wife, two dogs, three children, one gold fish and a garter snake named Herman. He passes uneventfully out of the story, his only contribution being Hanna’s startling translucent gray eyes.

Back on the island, Hanna’s mother soon discovered she’d missed a period…or two.

The family was staunchly Catholic, and Hanna was born quietly in a hospital with peeling paint that smelt strongly of black disinfectant and had no air conditioning. That’s the way it was in those days, and still is in some parts of the Caribbean.

Island rhythms run strong in her blood, to this day, Hanna can’t help herself, she will dance anywhere music takes her. If you ever see her dancing, it’s sweaty, sinuous and seductive. Music possesses her, takes control of her arms and waist and feet.

Even as a child Hanna had a way with little beings. Children and dogs gravitated to her. Her mother, Mavis, still talks about the day the neighbors pit bull escaped into the street. He chased cars and pedestrians, and raised holy hell and found himself in their front yard where Hanna played as a child.

Mavis still recalls the terror she felt as Hanna walked right up to the raging animal and lifted her tiny hands to touch his snarling maw. And before Mavis’ eyes, the brute bowed his head and began whimpering for joy. And in moments the two of them, toddler and terrier, were rolling in the grass, playing and laughing. The neighbor couldn’t believe his eyes either.

Fast forward to University. Fearing Math, she decided she wanted to teach. She spent endless days poring over books and long nights dancing and teasing the goofs and geeks that filled her classrooms. Then one day she stood in front of a roomful of children and she knew this was exactly where she needed to be. The pay was shit. The hours were shittier. Parents, Principals, and little people, time passed till she found herself, still childless at 42 years of age.

There were men, sure, there were plenty of men who wanted nothing more than a few nights with her, perspiring under her sheets. Most she blew off with an airy smile and a hair toss. But there was one she loved: Matthew.

The moment they met, they were inseparable. They’d moved in together, his friends were her friends. His dog -Jake, took one look at her and decided he never wanted to leave her side. Same thing happened to Matt. And then, one sunny day in the month of June, Matthew and Jake took a trip to the grocery store. A truck came out of nowhere. Neither of them returned.

She grieved for two years and almost eight months. When they recovered the bodies, Matt had a little jewelers’ box in his pocket. In it, there was a ring. Hanna still wears it around her neck on a chain.

Me here, typing the back-story of Hanna. Is it wrong to find my eyes full of tears?

When Matt died, something in Hanna died too. She still taught, her kids were the only think able to distract her enough that she could smile and be at peace. She’d started reading religious books, looking for some peace, some sense of closure. Even some hope that wherever her boys went, they were o.k.

Religious books soon gave way to new age books, and these ultimately gave way to dusty books lost on back shelves of the library. Books on heaven and hell and the hereafter. Books that she sought out in run down bookshops and in online auctions. Books that she perhaps shouldn’t have been reading because they spoke of different dimensions. Of ways to shift reality, to change things that ought not to be changed. To change even the fabric of time itself.

What Hanna didn’t know but what we (the creating public) do, is that one of those books was legit. One of them described a way of being, so unusual, so fantastic, so impossible, she laughed at the dirty pages. She read it, cover to cover, fingering the little ring on a golden chain hanging around her neck.

She read it to numb the screaming emptiness she felt every day since Matt and Jake left her. She read it to fill time that seemed to stretch out forever in front of her. Time that had nothing to look forward to, nothing to look back at. She read it because it was the last book in a dusty pile buried behind even dustier piles in a ramshackle bookstore that had one lightbulb and too many shadows.

She read it because her hand somehow held on to it as she wrinkled her nose trying to stop the dust from making her sneeze. She read it until the words blurred and her thoughts ran one into another. As she turned the last page, the final words caught her attention. They read: ‘Jesus wasn’t the only one who could do miracles. Now you can too.’

Hi friend, I’m hoping a few people will read through these posts. Even if they don’t, I’m using them for my first work of fiction, trying to build characters that I can set to play in my made up world. This is my process of world building and as I go, I’ll share it with you. I’m trusting you can learn as I learn.

Next up, the Psychological dimensions of Hannah.
Part 1/physiological dimensions of Hanna here.

📝Not all who wander are lost. But I'm often lost wondering.

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