Thursday, December 20, 2012

Link: How to laugh online in other languages

Here is an awesome article that explores what the rough equivalents are for "LOL" or "hahahaha" in other languages. I'm sharing it here because it's so funny and interesting - I hope you agree.

55555, or, How to Laugh Online in Other Languages

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

TTYU Retro: Must every scene be different?

This is, of course, a trick question. The answer itself isn't the important part - the important part is that your readers will notice sameness when they encounter it, and expect it to mean something. Which in turn means that if you don't want the sameness to mean something, you have to work towards making every scene different.

Let's get a bit more concrete about when sameness means something.

Let's say you're starting your story with your main character walking into a confrontation with a parent, and the main point of the story is a change in the relationship of that character with the parent. Then it makes sense to put in a scene at the end where there's another confrontation between the character and the parent, and it comes out differently. The repetition is noticeable, and it means something: it means the character has changed, allowing a different outcome from a very similar situation.

In The Princess Bride, we see repetition between the scene when Buttercup first gets introduced to her people as a princess, coming out on the red carpet, and the scene where she walks out with the queen's crown on ("at noon she met her subjects again, this time as their queen...") and gets booed. In the first instance, she's detached but accepting of the situation. In the second, she has her detachment and her acceptance called into question. It creates a terrific contrast, and that second scene had me going "No, no, no!" the first time I saw it. (And it has the boy doing the same thing.)

In The Lord of the Rings there is a repetition of the scene inside Mount Doom - between Elrond and Isildur in the first instance, and between Sam and Frodo in the second instance. Part of the power of the repetition comes in our desire for all the adventures to have changed things and made the situation different, so that Frodo won't fall into the same trap - and yet he does.

In a situation where two scenes are noticeably the same, readers will conclude that any differences they can find will be seriously significant to the story.

Now let's talk about when it's important to make every scene different.

Take my recently completed novel as an example. I have a society going where the nobles get messages via servants, and in which the sending of messages is quite common and sometimes quite important. Naturally, this means I have a lot of scenes where servants are delivering messages. The danger here is that there would be too much similarity between the scenes of message delivery - causing people to invest significance in differences between the scenes that really have no particular import. Then of course as we go on and there are more instances of message delivery, it could get extremely repetitive.

In this kind of situation I pay very close attention to which aspects of the scene are important. Is the location where the message is received important? Is the method of delivery (paper or recitation) important? Is the content of the message important? Is the character's reaction to receiving the message important? When I write the scene, the important elements need to stay, but those of less importance can just be skipped. So when Tagaret gets a message too sensitive to be written down, he gets it in his own room via recitation - and I make sure to show that. When another message comes and the deliverer wants to be anonymous, Tagaret gets a piece of paper slipped under his door. When the message is too urgent to let the family enter the house and relax before receiving it, I have the First Houseman meet them in the entry vestibule to deliver the message. But when Tagaret gets the message that a close friend has survived the threat of death, it's not the method of delivery that's important, but Tagaret's reaction - so I skip the message delivery entirely and go straight to Tagaret's post-message emotions and actions.

Watch out for small details that can become repetitive when you're not paying attention, such as the way you have people respond to danger, or the way they approach doors. If you're always describing these the same way, you're giving your character a habit - which may be charming and work great, or which could be entirely distracting from the conflicts of the story.

The other place where sameness can cause trouble is in larger, more important events. Maybe you're writing a book where a politician is trying to get something done and has to give a number of important speeches. It could turn out to be really awful if everything surrounding those speeches is the same, especially if your politician is giving the speeches about the same topic, just to different people. In that case, it's worth working hard to create different contexts for the similar events.

In my novel, there is a point when the story events start being organized around a political process called Heir Selection. In my Varin world, twelve candidates compete in several rounds of voting so that one can be selected as heir to the throne. The votes are all cast by the members of the Eminence's cabinet. We start with the Round of Twelve, then three days later is the Round of Eight, three days after that the Round of Four, and three days after that the final round. I think you can see the trap. If these events are not to become very repetitive and boring, they must be very different from one another. They must take place in different locations, the type of test put to the candidates must be different, etc. - but even that is not quite enough. I've also found that I have to make sure that I use different points of view, and even take focus off the content of the event. The Round of Twelve is handled in the point of view of one of the candidates on the stage in the Hall of the Eminence; the Round of Eight is outside in the Plaza of Varin, and the questioning that the candidates have been subjected to is not even part of the event.  While the Eminence announces the results of the question session and introduces the four candidates who will be moving on, I stay in the point of view of an audience member who doesn't care at all about what the Eminence says because he's busy trying to stop one of the candidates from being assassinated. My sense is that for the Round of Four I'll be back in my candidate's viewpoint, because this is a spot where his actions during the competition are absolutely critical - but for the final round I suspect the question of the results will be far more important than any character's actions during the ceremonial portion, so the ceremonial part will most likely be omitted.

As I go through this I'm noticing a pattern, which is to say that any time you have repetition it's important to keep the primary focus different. Try to identify what's most important about what is happening, and stick to that. Look around for ways to change setting, character, etc. so you are not simply falling into a reader's comfortable expectations. When their comfortable expectations are being met, readers are far more likely to skim or skip. It's the focus on difference that will keep their attention riveted to the page.

It's something to think about.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Designing character interviews that really matter (including genre-inspired questions)

I'm sure you've seen a lot of character-interview posts, but I'm hoping this one won't be like most you've seen elsewhere, so stick with me. I'm writing it as an update and expansion of one of my most popular posts of all time, "Know Your Character Inside and Out." The post will have two parts: first, a discussion of what criteria make questions more useful and less pointlessly trivial, and below that, a list of questions that deal with world and identity, and with genre (so you can skip down if you like).

Okay, so why should you conduct a mock interview with your character? What is it that makes a character interview more than just a bunch of random silly questions?

You can learn a lot from an interview if you conduct it the right way. The first thing to do is to think about who you are as an interviewer. You are the author who will be telling this character's story, so the questions you want answered have to do with the character and his/her role in that story. You won't be wanting to ask the kinds of questions that a neighbor or relative might ask, or the kinds of questions that an entertainment TV interviewer might ask. It's possible you may have some overlap between your own questions and those types of questions, but only if there is neighbor, relative, or TV entertainment content in your story.

You will want to ask the kinds of questions that help you understand your character and where he/she fits in his/her world. Don't ask what an alien thinks of coffee, for example, unless that alien will be encountering coffee in the story. You will want to know about what kinds of expectations your character holds, because story events will be judged on the basis of those expectations, and you can construct a backstory based on the type of expectations that person needs to have. You will want to know a lot about your character's emotions, because emotions are what give dynamics to your story. The questions you choose should grow out of what you already know about the plot and conflict, and the needs of the story, which will differ according to genre. Here are some of the many things that interconnect for a character:

world, culture, personal history, psychology, judgment, reaction, motive, action

You can enter into this web at any point, but from there you should follow the interconnections to get insight into other areas.

Before I head into the questions, let me make one last point about judgment. Judgment to me is one of the most important things you can understand about a character. This does not necessarily mean that you have to show or explain that character's judgment on the page (I like to, personally) but people need to have reasons why they do the things they do. For that reason, I like to angle my interview questions to elicit judgments, not just information. For example, I think "how many brothers and sisters do you have" is a far less helpful question than, "What do you think of your family members?" Answers to the first type of question will be numbers. Answers to the second could range from "I don't think about my family at all because I'm too busy" to "Every time I think of my eldest brother, terrifying memories well up in me and I can't bear to think about it."

The last suggestion I will make is that you should always let your character answer in the first person, because that means you'll be more likely to discover things about character voice as you go along.



The Interview Questions

Worldbuilding and Identity Questions
These questions are potentially useful for all writers, not just those who work in created worlds like those in science fiction and fantasy. The goal here is to establish what the character considers normal, because stories generally rely on pushing their characters outside the normal, and their reactions to stress will change depending on what they do consider normal.

1. What is my home like? How do I visualize its boundaries? How would it affect me if I needed to leave it?

2. What weather and physical conditions do I consider normal? What conditions would cause me to react with strong emotions such as fear, awe, wonder, or discomfort?

3. What kind of topography did I grow up in, and how did it influence my physical condition and my concepts of comfort? Is physical exertion normal for me, or difficult, or somehow socially disparaged?
 
4. In what kind of place do I feel most at home? What architecture, vistas, shapes, or textures give me comfort, or discomfort?

5. Who is in charge here? Do I respect them, fear them, both? What expectation of respect for authority did I grow up with? Did I accept it or struggle with it? How do my current circumstances compare?

6. How do I show who I am in the way I maintain my appearance? How far do my social and economic circumstances allow me to control how I appear to others? What clothing or adornment feels comfortable to me? Will I endure discomfort for the sake of meeting social expectations of beauty or power?

7. Where do the things I own come from? Do I worry about getting more?

8. What is delicious to me? What do I consider unworthy of consumption?

9. What are my most prized possessions? Do I hoard anything? Do I have so much of anything that I care little if I must give it away?

10. Who do I consider to be unlike me? Are their differences charming or alarming?

11. Am I in control of my own actions and the happenings around me? What or whom do I believe in?

12. How do I prefer to express my emotions? Do I express them verbally, or through action? Do I hide them from others? Do I hide them from myself? What expressions of emotion are considered acceptable in my society, and how has this influenced my emotional strategies?

13. How do I feel about social interaction? Does it feed me or drain me? Do I expect to have many people around me, or few? Do I expect those people to be relatives, people I know, or strangers? How do I feel about being alone?


Genre-Inspired Questions
The following questions are inspired by some of the issues that become central in different fiction genres. Be aware that these are not useful exclusively to the genres listed, but can certainly apply across genres as well, depending on their relevance.

Science Fiction
  • How do I react to things I have never seen before? 
  • Do I respond to the unknown with curiosity or fear, or both? 
  • How do I react to swift change?
  • How do I visualize the future?
  • How do I feel about the past - including my own past history, the history of my society and its technology?
  • What is my definition of "the latest" technology? How do I feel about it? Where do I imagine it going?

Adventure
  • What is my emotional response to privation? To physical danger? 
  • What kinds of equipment do I consider indispensable, and why?
  • Am I good at thinking on my feet? 
  • How important are team members to me? How much might I sacrifice for them?

Romance
  • What do I find attractive? Unattractive?
  • How do I define masculinity and femininity? How do I respond to those qualities emotionally or physically?
  • How do I respond emotionally to the sensation of physical arousal?
  • Do I have any physical or mental quirks that might influence my sensual life?

Horror
  • What am I afraid of?
  • What do I find creepy?
  • What contributes to my most extreme feelings of anxiety, and what factors might contribute to creating a spiral of growing fear?
  • How do I feel about the fear of others? Is it worthy of scorn, inspiring of courage, or inspiring of greater fear in myself?


I realize that this list, in spite of all the things I've covered, is incomplete. For example, since I'm not a horror aficionado, I'm sure I've missed some great questions for that genre. I welcome other questions to be proposed in the comments. If you'd like to see some other great interview questions, you can look back at my post Knowing Your Character Inside and Out, and at Nicola Morgan's questions on Help! I Need a Publisher!
I hope this list has given you some useful ideas about how to explore your characters through interviews. Good luck!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Questioning the Monologue of Evil Triumph

We're all familiar with the Monologue of Evil Triumph. Many of us have written at least one - some may have written more than one. It's that moment when the Hero is in a tight spot and the Bad Guy decides to explain every motive and action that took him up to that point. In fact, one of my favorite sequences from The Incredibles was when Mr. Incredible and Frozone are talking in the car about past battles - the part that ends with Frozone saying, "I mean, the guy has me on a platter and he won't shut up!"

It's so familiar it's being called out on the meta-level...and then later, the Bad Guy (Syndrome) still launches into a monologue before catching himself.

I've wondered sometimes how realistic the Monologue of Evil Triumph is. Do people do this in real life? And another thought - how many real life bad guys do it because they've been taught to do it by evil characters in stories?

A Monologue of Evil Triumph does some nice things for the author - at very least, it allows the author to show how clever she/he is in designing what the bad guy has done. By the time we get to the point where the good guy is "on a platter," we're often wondering just how much evil the bad guy has got going, and unless the good guy has already discovered all of it through experience, it helps to have the bad guy explain things (especially personal history and motive).

I suppose the Monologue also serves a certain psychological purpose for the villain. After all, he/she has gone to a lot of work to get this fantastically complex evil thing done, and it would be a shame if nobody knew just how cool he /she really was. That's the one aspect that makes me think that evildoer monologues are potentially realistic - they seem so for a person who is naturally self-centered and wants everyone in the whole world to know how big and powerful they are. A lot of bad guys fall into the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder/Megalomania.

Here's another funny thing I've noticed, though. The Monologue of Evil Triumph bears some odd similarities to Mansplaining, in its definition of "to explain in a patronizing manner, assuming total ignorance on the part of those listening" (definition from UrbanDictionary.com). It's enough to inspire me to pay closer attention when I'm reading and watching movies, to see if I can find any gender differences in the way the Big Bad goes about claiming victory. Is the co-incidence of the male villain and the "Mansplain of Evil Triumph" just that - a coincidence? Or is there something gendered about villains' approaches to (near) success?

It certainly has me rethinking what I was doing for a scene in my WIP, a short story called "Mind Locker." The baddie in my story is a woman, and I got to the point where a Monologue became tempting, and my mind rebelled. No, I don't want a Monologue in this story. I want something else.
A conversation, maybe. A villain who is perhaps less Narcissistic and Megalomaniacal, and more maternal. It's a tricky twist, but one that I hope will be interesting and thought-provoking for readers.

It's something to think about.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

TTYU Retro: Writing male point of view

I ran across an interesting article at Fiction Groupie some time ago about writing male point of view. It provided a checklist of some things that men do and think about...fully admitting that many of these things were stereotypes, but pointing out that the list does have some basis in fact (most stereotypes do, on some level). My first reaction on reading it was that I felt it really didn't apply to most of the male points of view that I write. Was it just that I was avoiding stereotypes? Was it - horrors - that my male characters weren't male enough?

Fortunately, that's one of the things I have critique partners for,  and I have male readers who have assured me my male characters are working - but it got me thinking about how I write male points of view. I do this quite a lot, in fact - two of my three published stories have male protagonists, and my novel in progress, For Love, For Power, has three points of view, all of whom are male, for structural reasons.

First I think it's important to think about stereotypical characteristics from the point of view of core vs. peripheral characteristics rather than stereotypes. Core characteristics are those that tend to be possessed by most men we know. Peripheral characteristics are those that can be considered male, but are typically possessed by smaller subgroups of men. One of the things that will cause you to fall into a stereotype is if you give too many of your male characters too many of these characteristics all at once. To go with Roni Loren's list, if they're all action oriented, impatient, visually oriented guys who like to be in charge, project confidence but repress their emotions, say what they mean in order to solve all problems, converse only to exchange information and think about sex all the time... you have a problem. On the other hand, these are all really valuable trends in male behavior in our society that are useful to consider when designing male characters (especially for category romance, which has its own idiosyncratic demands!).

One thing I'd encourage you to remember is that a lot of the characteristics that we consider typically male are based in our society's cultural values - which means that if you're working outside our society and its rules (as I am most of the time) the characteristics of male characters are going to be heavily influenced by the differences in the society around them. Dress varies widely (think Japan versus US men, for example). So does the expression of emotions (think European or Slavic men vs. Englishmen for an alternate example of expressive style). When you're designing your world and the society that operates within it, make sure to think through some of these core gender-role variables and figure out what your society values.

So for the sake of making this more concrete, I'm going to give some examples from my own male characters. I'd say that typically each one has one or two defining characteristics that are "male," but they vary widely on a lot of the other variables.

The most current-society-normative of my characters are the humans from my Allied Systems stories. The young man David Linden doesn't have women to interact with, so sex isn't on his mind at all. He's primarily defined by his need to prove himself to his father as a worthy scientist - which can be done for either gender, but won't seem out of place for a male character. The main character of my story in progress, The Liars, is Adrian Preston. He's married and spends a lot of time thinking about, and negotiating with his wife, but the story doesn't allow a lot of extra time to explore the intimate side of their relationship. He's a man who lives for his work as a linguist and loves it so much that his idea of having fun is working on language.

The idea of the importance of work is one that I didn't see mentioned in Roni Loren's piece, but one that I think is common to a great many men. When designing a society you should definitely consider identifying what activities are considered worth dedicating one's life to (work), and which are considered legitimate outlets for emotion and conversation (sports, for example). Even Rulii, my wolflike alien, is very much centered on how his work as Councilor will allow him to achieve his life's goal, which he thinks of in terms of "landing the quarry of my life's hunt."

A more nuanced example from my stories is the character of Imbati Xinta. He lives for his work to the point of fanaticism, and he certainly represses his emotions, but not for the reasons that men in our society would do so. Because he works as manservant to the Eminence of Varin, his job is to stand by and remember everything he hears, and to reveal nothing through his face or movements that would jeopardize his master's secrets. He is a trained bodyguard and martial artist, but in appearance is quite effeminate, and emotionally he is very vulnerable. There are a couple of things going on with this, one of which is that I've known any number of men who go about covering up significant emotional vulnerabilities - and the other of which is that Xinta is expected to repress his own ethics and human feeling, and to be entirely "selfless," since that is considered the ideal state for a member of the servant caste. Xinta self-represses to such an extent that he's not able to connect with anyone emotionally beyond normal politeness, and sex is the last thing on his mind. Which is to say I suppose that I'm using the work focus tendency and the emotional repression tendency to negate the tendency to think about sex in his case. As to his appearance, I'm having him look the way he does - paying close attention to his looks, dressing in bright colors, wearing jewelry, etc. - in part to please the man he works for, and in part to echo that real-world tendency for a "civilized" man to take on more elaborate habits that might be laughed off as effeminate by a member of the lower classes.

I suppose you could say that close observation of the people around you can only go so far, because that will only allow you to see the parameters being used by the people around you. I have found my anthropological studies extremely valuable, because they've given me an eye for paying attention to and interpreting the possible variables behind different styles of social interaction. Particularly if you're worldbuilding, you should try to see foreign movies or read books about people in other times from the point of view of looking at societal models of gendered and romantic behavior (Emma, for example, can be quite an eye-opener for someone used to the permissive ways of modern romance).

When you're writing a male character, you won't want him to be without any male characteristics (those recognizable to the readers). That can be considered a given. But you don't have to cling just to the stereotypes you know. If you cultivate a sense within your world and your reader of what gendered behavior is like, then you can have your male character follow that trend and see it as masculine. Furthermore, female characters can possess Earthly "male" characteristics and still be considered feminine depending on the views of the society you're working in. The most important thing, I think, is to make sure that you've thought through why your character behaves the way he does, why you think he's masculine, and precisely how and why he deviates from the stereotypes that everyone will be looking for, yet fearing to find.

It's something to think about.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Some Gender-related thoughts about How to Train Your Dragon

Last week my kids and I have watched Dreamworks' How to Train Your Dragon more than once. Usually I can't watch a movie more than once without starting to think about the underlying social issues, and this must have been the tenth time I've watched this one, but for some reason this time I started going back over my thinking about gender in the movie.

One note before I start: these are thoughts about the movie, not the book (which I have not read).

I enjoyed How to Train Your Dragon far more than I expected to when I first saw it. However, I never saw it as cutting-edge in a gender sense. I liked that there were both male and female Vikings, but although the female Vikings seemed to be out fighting alongside the males, most were just incidental rather than main characters. Hiccup's mom was out of the picture. Ruffnut was ostensibly female but hardly distinguishable from her brother in behavior. I guess you could say that woman characters exist in the movie but aren't really put into the focus of the story.

It's not as if they couldn't have been, either. For the sake of argument let's put aside the question of faithfulness to the book, and ask if the story could have worked with different genders. I mean, why couldn't Gobber have been a woman? A female blacksmith with a peg leg and detachable hands, who can double the amount of time that an army has to get away, how cool would that be? Or why wasn't Toothless female? There's absolutely nothing that dragon does which is particularly masculine, that I can think of. There's no reason to act like just because a dragon species is stealthy and powerful and awesome that any particular individual of that species must be male. All other things being equal, there is no reason I can see why Toothless could not have been a female.

So now we get to the main characters.

Astrid, I liked. She was tough but not too boyish, had judgments of things, used her head, and had ideas that took her both in opposition to Hiccup and into alignment with him. While her habit of whacking Hiccup came across to me as over the top, it fit with the whole Viking idea. And I did appreciate that the habit didn't go away just because she started liking him.

So now we get to Hiccup. For some reason, this time I found I liked him better than I ever had. Let's set aside the easy comments, "He's a boy, why can't we have girl protagonists" etc. and take a look at what he's really doing.

He is advocating for feminine strengths in a world of masculine strengths.

Hiccup's main problem isn't that he's weak but smart and people don't value his brains (which is relatively more common as a story message). It's that he isn't any good at fighting even when he tries, and he obviously isn't cut out for it. It's his heart that he is faulted for - what Gobber says, "It's not what you look like, it's what's inside that he can't stand." He's faulted for his inability to occupy a proper place as a soldier in the war that has been going on for generations between the Vikings and the dragons. He tries to take part in it (by shooting Toothless) and discovers that his success in bringing down the dragon is the greatest regret of his life. His turning point is the moment when he holds up his knife trying to kill Toothless, and doesn't just choose not to do it, but risks his own skin in order to undo what he has done. He goes from being a someone who knows what he is supposed to do but is unwilling to do it and therefore gets into all kinds of trouble, to someone who knows that what he was supposed to do (be big and strong and fight and kill) was wrong and will go to all kinds of quiet lengths in order to stay on the path he knows is right.

The moral of this story, as I see it, is "take your time to think and be compassionate." Hiccup's major victory comes from holding course firmly - even when his father won't listen to him. He doesn't have to battle his father to convince him. He doesn't have to kill a dragon, either. Yes, the big mega-dragon has to be stopped, and there's the battle and self-sacrifice and all that, but to my mind, Hiccup's big victory comes when his father sees the truth. When Stoic realizes that Hiccup's way of seeing the world was correct, and that he was wrong to disown him.

I've spoken before (in my post about Strong Female Characters) about the value of femininity. Feminism has taken us to a place where it's often okay, approved of, encouraged even, for women to behave in masculine ways. So far, so good (even though we know there is plenty of work to do). This still puts an unfair emphasis on masculinity as the goal, however. Gender equity means equity - and that means putting value on femininity as well, allowing boys to behave in feminine ways, with feminine strengths. I came out of this viewing of How to Train Your Dragon feeling like Hiccup's journey was a step in the right direction, because what made him a hero began in his feminine side.

I'd love to see more of that in movies, in books, and on the playground. I'm taking it as inspiration for my own work, and I hope you'll consider doing so as well.

It's something to think about.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Link: Lead Character Goal Selection and the Preservation of Self-Concept

I really enjoyed this article by Lydia Sharp today. Her idea is that the first major goal of a main character must be somehow to preserve his/her concept of identity. I'm not sure I entirely agree with this, since my main characters don't necessarily do that - however, the concept of identity and its relation to a main character's story goals is really important. She also emphasizes that there should be a critical fit between the character's identity and the nature of the plot - they should be in the most extreme opposition possible.

Anyway, take a look, and you might get some good ideas.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A character's mental voice is like all the goofy (or not) quotes they've ever memorized

I know a lot of you who play this game. Start a quote, and have your friend finish it, or take the next part. Quotes from The Princess Bride. Or from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. This week I was playing the game with my son and daughter, quoting from Rise of the Guardians. Sometimes it only takes one word ("inconceivable!") or maybe a couple of words to bring a whole quote or sequence of words to mind.

It's not just entertainment stuff, though. We have quotes from the internet, but also quotes from the deeper books we've read, or the Bible, or just sayings that have been in the family for years. The frequency with which we have whole chunks of language float up in our consciousness is quite remarkable.

In the study of language and language learning, people have discovered that a lot of what we learn is based on phrases that come into our repertoire in chunks, rather than single words that get put together using rules. In America we often like to vary those phrases in (usually predictable) various ways. In Japan there are a lot of set phrases that must be delivered as is, in the required situations (and variation is discouraged).

What I'm getting to here is an idea about how to make the inner voice of a character come alive. How to get the character's mind to demonstrate the culture he or she is a part of, and how to weave backstory into the character him or herself.

Think about what your character has been exposed to. What kind of colloquial sayings? What kind of family sayings? What kind of books? What kind of other media? All of those things will be folded into the way that character thinks. A character who has spent a lot of time using the internet may use internet slang, but will also likely be inclined to drop themselves from the position of sentence subject, because that is one of the major grammatical features of internet talk (due to the presence of an identity marker on each post).

For each feature of the backstory, or feature of the culture, or feature of literacy and education in your world, try to think of a way that feature would be expressed in your character's internalization. Your character might be a direct quoter, as Janice Hardy's Nya was, always quoting her Grannyma. Or he might be someone like Herbert's Gurney Halleck, who quotes from the Orange Catholic Bible. Your character might also be someone whose language patterns are influenced by a particular cultural tradition or set of metaphors without actually involving direct quotes.

Regardless of what the different contributions have been to the internal voice of your character, it can be very helpful to think of a character's mentality as a symphony of different voices. The character him or herself becomes the conductor, deciding when each voice is most relevant. Letting aspects of different philosophies come to the fore as they become relevant, and choosing which of them to express in the judgments he or she makes. If you can make this happen in a character of yours, then you can achieve a sense of complexity and depth in many fewer words than you otherwise would.

It's something to think about.