Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 8

Who's Got the Power?
When you sit down across the table from an editor to pitch your story, who in the relationship has the greater degree of power? Who has power in a parent-child relationship? In America when a man and a woman interact, even for the very first time, whom do you think holds greater power? The concept I've just illustrated is called power distance (social hierarchy), and can serve to add conflict, humor, confusion, and much more to your story.

Power distance varies among countries, and that's why I've chosen to put this under our discussion on culture. For a quick understanding of power distance think about the accessibility between an employee and boss in the US and those in China.

Power distance varies according to three things: relationship ( as in parent/child), position (boss/worker), and situation (attacker/victim). You want to show your characters, especially your protagonist and antagonist, in varying power distance circumstances. Never let your protagonist ACT in a way that will put him/her in a lesser position of power with the antagonist.

Here's an illustration. The antagonist broke into the home of your protagonist and seized Pro in a chokehold. If Pro whimpers and cowers, Pro has lost power and will lose respect in your reader’s eye. However, if Pro resists and makes eye contact that speaks defiance, Pro maintains power over Ant and your reader can continue to cheer for Pro. Take note of the words “whimper, cower, resist, defiance.” They communicate degrees of power. Work to find the best words to communicate your intent.

Do your research and employ power distance with your characters.
Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

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