Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Revealing Character Through Dialogue

There are several ways readers get to know the characters in your novel. One is by "show" (The reader experiences the character as he/she is revealed), another is by description (A character's physical appearance and demeanor gives clues to the personality).

A third is through the opinions of himserlf/herself and the other characters. An example is Cornell Dyer from Visage. 

In Cornell's own words:

Amateurish paintings of astrologic symbols, hexagrams, and magic wands covered the motor home’s white exterior. A sign painted across one side read: The Thaumaturgical World of Professor Cornell Dyer: Amulets, Fortune-Telling (with and without cards), Ghost-Hunting, Horoscopes, Numerology, Palm-Reading.

“You have reached The Thaumaturgical World of Professor Cornell Dyer. We offer amulets, fortune-telling--with and without cards--ghost-hunting, horoscopes, numerology, palm-reading, potions, séances, spells, and vampire-slaying. The professor is busy saving the world right now, so please leave your name, number, and a detailed message after the beep. He will return your call as soon as possible.”

And in the words of others:

. I can’t wait for you guys to meet my husband. I’m sure he will have lots in common with John. Cornell’s a professor, too.”

“He is?” Melissa wondered if Julie had not given her prejudiced information about Katie’s situation. “What kind of professor?”

“He’s a professor of the esoteric.”

“The what!”

“The esoteric. You know, the occult.”

“I know what esoteric means,” Melissa said, losing patience with her old friend. “Katie, you can’t be serious.”

Katie giggled. “I sure am. Not only is he smart, he’s very compassionate, which is why we travel around the country. That’s all Cornell does is help people, kind of like an old-fashioned medicine man. He goes from place to place teaching people about the mystical world they can’t see and fixing their problems.”

This last statement did it for Melissa. “He solves their problems? For free?”
 “Big problems, little problems; it doesn’t matter to Cornell."

“Melissa, you would not believe the voluminous amounts of research this man has singlehandedly accomplished and documented. He’s filled shelves with the details of his experiments. They’re referenced and cross-referenced, graphed and charted. I couldn’t read it all if I spent every night there. The man’s a pioneer into another realm.”

 “He’s a glorified birthday party magician."

Cornell grabbed Melissa’s hand, slapped one business card into it, and said, “Call me at this number tomorrow morning when John wakes up.”

She tried to return the card, but Cornell closed her fist around it and gave her an enigmatic smile. Melissa snatched her hand away.

“Cornell Dyer, it’ll be a cold day in hell when I call you.”

“That’s “Professor” to you.”

How long Melissa frantically paced outside the restaurant she did not know, but at some point the front door opened, and Cornell stepped outside. He lit a cigarette and leaned against the building.

“Nice evening,” he said around the butt.

“Bug off."

Cornell blew out smoke. “You don’t like me, Melissa.”

“Wow! You really do have a crystal ball.”

“I told him what a wonderfully awesome job he had done that night, and he thanked me. Then he cut another piece and offered me a slice, too. I didn’t really want any cake because of my diet but then decided the cake must taste very good because I’d seen Cornell eat three pieces. 

John-Peter picked up his plate, tilted it to his mouth, slurped the remaining juice, and then said, “Maybe you should call Cornell Dyer.”

Oh, how she despised the sound of that man’s name!

“John-Peter, please be quiet.”

“Father says Cornell is a genius.”

He plopped onto the couch, turned on the television, and braced his feet against the coffee table. Melissa angrily strode across the room and shoved his feet onto the floor. Cornell yawned, but did not otherwise react, except to pick up the television guide. and ask, “What’s good this time of day?”

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