4. Deeper Dimensions of Human Characterization

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An Illustrative Scene
The following passage from my novel, Dragons in the Stars, may serve to illustrate small ways in which you can bring your characters to life over the course of a scene. First read the passage, and then we'll look at some of the specific pieces.

In this excerpt, Jael is with the dragon Highwing, who is allowing her to peer through a magical window into the past. Her past. She sees herself and her captain, Mogurn, at the spaceport where he first hired her. But instead of just reviewing her memory of the event, she is seeing the events happen as though from the viewpoint of a fly on the wall. She observes actions, and qualities, that make Mogurn's character - and her own - clear to herself (and to the reader). Mogurn is talking to a spaceport crew steward, who is helping him to find a pilot. Here it is:

Jael found herself looking through a living window.

At Mogurn.

It was Mogurn at the spaceport, the rigger dispatcher room. This was Mogurn the businessman; the merchant; the thief. He was talking with someone - a spaceport crew steward. Both men smiled meanly at something Mogurn said, and the steward turned and pointed. A female rigger stood in profile, beyond them.

Jael trembled, recognizing herself. She looked meek, frightened, lonely. Mogurn leaned toward the steward, grinning, and withdrew from his hip pouch the probe of the pallisp. The steward nodded, winking. They touched hands and something twinkled between their fingers. Then Mogurn strode toward the rigger, standing bewildered in the lobby. And Jael watched the younger Jael turn, startled at a sudden sensation of warmth, of companionship. Watched herself meet Mogurn, watched herself accept work—and watched herself surrender to the pallisp.

Okay, what's happening here?

Mogurn the businessman; the merchant; the thief .

This first characterization of Mogurn is from her immediate awareness of Mogurn as she has come to know him. It's not until a few sentences further that we start to see the actions that betrayed something of his character very early on.

Both men smiled meanly at something Mogurn said, and the steward turned and pointed. A female rigger stood in profile, beyond them.

What's the tip-off here that Mogurn can't be trusted? What does Jael see about herself as she looks at the Jael of the past? Did that earlier Jael notice what sort of a man Mogurn was? Was she alert to the danger implied by his behavior?

Jael trembled, recognizing herself. She looked meek, frightened, lonely.

Had she suspected even then that she was about to take her first steps into trouble? Or was she too young and na´ve? And what else about Mogurn? What are his next actions?

Mogurn leaned toward the steward, grinning, and withdrew from his hip pouch the probe of the pallisp.

Jael understands now what she didn't realize then. This is the device he will use to enslave her.

The steward nodded, winking. They touched hands and something twinkled between their fingers.

He grins. The steward winks. What do you think happened when they touched hands? A deal made? A bribe?

 
 

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