Although this is a fairly short article about a really sneaky (if somewhat basic) technique you can use to add extra depth to the characters in your comic or novel quickly, I’m going to have to start by talking about music and TV shows for a while. As usual, there’s (sort of) a good reason for this.
Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been watching the first season of a TV show called “Supernatural” on DVD recently. This is a show about two twentysomething brothers who travel across America, both in search of their missing father and to solve various paranormal mysteries in the small towns that they visit.
Why am I mentioning this show yet again? Well, one of the interesting things about the show is that Dean (the older brother) is a fan of classic rock and always insists on listening to it whenever the brothers drive between towns. Initially, I thought that the show’s creators included this either as an excuse to include lots of vaguely cool background music or because they were classic rock fans themselves.
Then, the night before writing this article, I realised that this creative choice was actually a lot smarter than I’d first thought. After all, as a twentysomething myself, I can only think of maybe one or two people of my own age that I knew growing up who really liked classic rock.
Even though my own tastes in 1980s-90s metal, punk and gothic music are somewhere towards the older end of the spectrum (seriously, many of my favourite musicians are either a similar age to my parents or older than my parents), even I was never really that interested in classic rock from the 70s. Twentysomethings who are massive classic rock fans exist, but they’re kind of rare.
So, why did the creators of “Supernatural” decide to make Dean a classic rock fan? Very early in the series, it’s mentioned that – unlike his younger brother- Dean was very close to his father when he was growing up. In fact, he was probably more like his father’s second-in-command than his son.
So, it makes sense that he probably didn’t have time to discover new bands and probably just ended up liking the same music that his father listened to. By default, his musical tastes were the same as his father’s.
Now that is an example of extremely clever, if somewhat subtle, characterisation.
It’s a fact that pretty much everyone is a fan of something. Everyone has their own favourite movies, musicians, authors, games, foods etc… and these things often reflect something about either who we are, how we see ourselves or who we want to be.
So, why should it be any different for your characters? You can include a lot of subtle details about your characters’ personalities, backstories and worldview simply by either mentioning or showing what they happen to be a fan of.
Even if you’re nervous about copyright (although I’m not a lawyer, mere references to things and prose descriptions of things aren’t really covered by copyright. Just don’t quote any song lyrics or anything like that), it’s still a good idea to come up with convincingly realistic fictitious bands/movies/ TV shows for your characters to be fans of, in order to both make your characters more realistic (after all, everyone is a fan of something) or to give them more characterisation.
Sorry for the short article, but I hope it was useful 🙂