Once in a while, I try to get clever and show off how much work I’ve put into the characterisation of one of my cast in a book. My goal is to construct believable, three-dimensional personalities that resonate with the audience. What usually happens is that I get overexcited and try to cram too much into once scene. What I get is chaos.
It is a bit like trying to wear all your clothes at once. It doesn’t impress anyone with your sense of style … it just makes you look fat and a hot mess. It is better to wear something simpler; you know, the whole less is more thing. It can work in your writing too.
Now, you don’t wear the same thing every day or to every occasion.
You dress to suit. Over time, people build up an impression of your sense of style. You can tailor your outfits to reflect your changing moods.
Now, that slow build-up has become my approach to character construction within my work in progress. Instead of trying to show character complexity all at once, I build it over the space of several chapters. Of course, in a short story, you don’t have the space for this method. In a book, you don’t have to aim to be succinct, though I am not saying that being terse, laconic, or compact can’t work in a book. I’m all for breviloquency and clarity. But why not utilise the luxury and freedom of all that space?
Prose need not be the opposite of poetry. Rediscover your love of language.