On my desk, this little gray book sits alongside Roget’s II The New Thesaurus, Strunk and White Elements of Style and Instant English Handbook. In this petite jewel with yellowed pages, the author, Benjamin Heydrick has a delicious amount of ingredients that form a short story. If you notice, the copyright is 1913, and most, if not all lessons, still accurately apply today.
The first portion of the book opens by showcasing the author Washington Irving and his use of character development in his story Rip Van Winkle. Irving says there are two ways of showing traits of character. First through comments by the author, such as, “Rip was a simple, good-natured man, etc.” The second is to let the character exhibit their traits through speech and actions. (The dramatic method). The reader learns shortly the essence of Rip’s character by his actions of ‘being a happy mortal, a bit foolish, perhaps a well-oiled disposition who takes the world easy, eats white bread or brown, whichever he could get with the least amount of trouble, and would rather starve on a penny than work for a pound.’ This style speaks of what a character is about by his actions throughout the story. Well done Mr. Irving on your creation of Rip—you created this fictional character so alive; he still lives with us today.
As time continued to dole out contagious storytelling on the page, dialogue became a stronger force to reveal a character, to move the story forward. In Telling Tales and Sharing Secrets, many of the stories, whether fiction or not present interesting characterization (for instance, Hannah and Willy, Babe, & White Gloves) reveal much about a character from many angles by each author. As you continue to read the book you have open on your nightstand, or pick a new one out, notice the pieces that reflect your interest in that one or those characters.
I would enjoy to hear some of your favorites. Happy reading!