Hills opens this section by acknowledging the utility of types. Between the inherent drama, clear distinctions and time savings gained by using types as templates, there’s a lot to recommend them. But as noted in previous sections types must be individualized.
How is that done? Here’s Hills, making overt what he earlier implied:
In differentiating a main character from a type, the problem is whittling the extravagant back toward the average, a process of individualization.
No matter how many times I read that sentence the same image comes to mind. It is a literal metaphor of an actor leaving the stage through the wings. On stage the actor played a type — an exaggerated character — but offstage the actor moves toward the norm, individualizing from the role they just played. (I would suggest this is one of the fascinations we all have with actors, both as performers-in-character and in real life.)
I am not suggesting that you actually present a type and then attempt to reveal more. I think that’s a mistake and leads to the kind of weak characterization discussed in the previous post. Rather, I think you should contemplate your characters in an offstage context before you begin to write, asking questions that go beyond, but are related to, type. What kind of person would adopt such an on-stage type/role? Who might adapt such a type/role to their own use? [ Read more ]