Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Patterns

What patterns do your characters play out? Not just in relationships but in day to day lives? What do they deal with over and over again? And how can you use those patterns to show character growth?

I’ve been thinking about this for a number of reasons and one of them is fire ants. Yes, that’s right, I said fire ants. I live in Texas now and we have fire ants. Last year I successfully dealt with them mound by mound. This year, well, let’s just say I think what I did last year bred resistant strains and that’s what I’m dealing with this year.

I’ve tried what I used last year. They seem to like it and the mounds got bigger. I've tried Borax. They seem to find it tasty.

I went online to see what other people are trying. Got the name of something (Othlene? Amodoro?) several people said works well. We’ll see. I've already ruled out dousing mounds with gasoline and setting them on fire and not just because: a) it sounds like overkill and b) I don't know just where all those tunnels go (including possibly under my house?).

But since I’m reluctant to keep adding toxic chemicals to my lawn, next I’m going to try something else someone at the site suggested: boiling water. The first attempt didn’t go so well so I’m now trying hot SALT water. (Not in the middle of my lawn but where there are bricks and the fire ants are coming up between the bricks and I don’t want any grass growing there anyway...) And if that doesn't work, well, there is that suggestion of scooping a batch of fire ants from one hill and dumping them on a different hill and watching them battle it out...

The interesting thing is that this particular site also said that fire ants help keep down the population of ticks and termites! Well, heck, now I’ve got a real dilemma. I don’t want to be stepping on fire ant mounts in my yard. On the other hand, if I have to choose between fire ants in my yard and termites in my house....well....maybe I don’t want to be quite so aggressive after all.

So how does this relate to writing? Patterns. How do your characters react to situations that arise over and over again? Do they keep doing the same thing? Do they try to figure out different solutions? Does something cause them to change and grow so they naturally handle it differently?

The answers to these kinds of questions help clarify who your characters are and what their (believable) motivations might be. Rather than telling the readers, we as writers can show who our characters are by how they handle challenges in their lives.

I mean, heck, reading the above, you probably get a pretty clear sense that I don’t give up easily. You also probably can tell that I’m willing to reconsider my plan of action when I get new information and that I’m not so single-minded that I don’t consider several aspects of a situation before making decisions. I could have TOLD you all that but...I’m guessing you’re far more likely to believe it and have that clear picture of me by reading what I wrote above.

In the same way, showing how your characters deal with patterns in their lives can help your characters come alive for the readers.

April (off to see how the salt water is doing with those fire ants near the patio door....)

2 comments:

Cindy said...

I love trying to figure out new ways to show character growth--or regression--which they sometimes seem better at :-( but it all makes for a good read! Thanks for the reminder. Fire ants -- just the name sounds scary! Hope the hot water and salt does the trick-I'm with you, better fire ants than termites...

April said...

Cindy,

Yeah, it is fun to figure out new ways to reveal character. Fire ants are in theory scary. I have a friend who was bitten and it took weeks to heal. So far I've been lucky and haven't been bitten but it does make me a little nervous having so many around....

Still, beats the heck out of having termites!