The Bean of Character Development

Paris may have the Eiffel Tower, but Chicago has Cloud-Gate,

(aka, The Bean) -- a highly-polished sculpture that reflects the city, the sky, the Lake, Centennial Park, and any person within reflecting distance.


No matter your vantage point, the curvy reflection is beautiful and interesting. The sky was blue when we visited recently, but for high drama, I recommend a cloudy or stormy day. 


It’s fun to walk around and view The Bean from various vantage points. The reflections change and morph; you change and morph. If you stand directly beneath it, you see multiple reflections of yourself in different sizes. It’s a little trippy.

(Note to self: don’t walk around while looking up!)


It occurred to me that we writers get to know our characters by viewing them from different angles and perspectives. As we polish them into being, what is reflecting back? From here, Bob seems affable and responsible. From there, we see an angry side with a tendency to shove problems under the rug. From fifty feet away, he’s helping an old lady cross the street. From ten, he’s threatening a neighbor.  Standing underneath, we see a scared little boy, bruised and hiding in the closet.


What if our heroine is prickly at a distance, but on closer inspection we find her stopping to rescue turtles from the middle of dusty rural roads? 


The day we visited, there were a lot of people walking around, taking photographs and enjoying themselves. Some were mugging for the camera, others were simply documenting a unique sculpture and experience.  (Did someone say secondary characters? Hmm...I wonder how would they would reflect off the protagonist?)






Write a comment

Comments: 2
  • #1

    Andrea Blythe (Tuesday, 19 November 2013 12:38)

    Interesting thought process. Seeing characters from many different angles is a good way of making them more real; that's how people are, too, with many layers and dimensions.

  • #2

    cindyangellkeeling (Tuesday, 19 November 2013 19:07)

    I agree, Andrea. It seems that it takes a good amount of exploration to deepen our characters. I'm in that process now, and have recently purchased a great book that, among other things, has good suggestions for character development: Outlining Your Novel, by K.M. Weiland. She also has Structuring Your Novel, which is excellent, as well. I love these books!