Wednesday, November 24, 2010
What Are Mirror Characters?
As you probably know, mirror characters are the characters in our books whose personalities contrast with our heroine or hero. If our heroine is an introvert, her mirror character will be an extrovert. If our hero is reckless, his mirror character will be cautious.
Mirror characters can be the main character’s friend or nemesis, relative or neighbor. He or she could be a pivotal secondary character or someone who walks on for only one or two scenes.
I’ve always loved mirror characters because they help sculpt main characters. To put it crudely, mirror characters are valuable tools in an author’s storytelling kit. They help show – not tell – our main character’s personality. Think about the many ways you develop your character.
• Dialogue: Is she chatty or stingy with her words?
• Actions: Does she fidget or is she composed?
• Appearance: Is she fashionable or conservative?
Now look at your mirror character. The mirror character allows you to take the heroine you’ve just developed in her entirety and contrast her with another character to deepen her personality.
Let’s take a look at some mirror characters from the movies. Have you seen “Speed” with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock? No? Why not? No, never mind. We’ll discuss your serious oversight in movies later. I’ll set the scene. Keanu Reeves plays Jack, a Los Angeles police officer and man of action. He’s on the edge of being reckless. His partner, Harry, is his mirror character. Harry knows the importance of thinking before you act. We don’t have a narrator who steps onto the scene to explain that Jack is reckless and Harry is cautious. Instead we hear the contrast in the characters’ dialogue. This interaction deepens the characterization.
Sandra Bullock’s character, Annie, also is a mirror character for Keanu Reeves’s Jack. Annie is a nurturer. Jack … well, he doesn’t show as much emotion, which doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. But that’s another discussion. Anyway, one of the many scenes that contrasts Annie and Jack comes when one of the passengers on the runaway bus (It’s a long story; rent the DVD.) turns to Jack in fear of the action they’re about to take. Desperate for reassurance, the young man asks, “Is this really going to work?” Jack stares at him without responding, without showing emotion.
In contrast, Annie does show emotion. The script gives us bits of dialogue that gives away the fact that Annie cares a great deal for the other passengers. Now, Annie is driving the runaway bus. She miraculously (It’s Hollywood.) completes the dangerous action that the young man was worried about. The first words out of her mouth are, “Is everyone all right?” Nurturer. The audience contrasts Annie’s reaction with Jack’s previous reaction – or lack thereof.
I’ve used at least one mirror character for my heroine and hero in all of my stories to help deepen their characterization. For example, my heroine in Heated Rivalry is an insecure introvert. Her best friend is a confident extrovert. I had fun having them play off of each other. In Sweet Deception, my hero is a responsible oldest child whose parents take him for granted. In contrast, his younger brother is a spoiled child who has to be the center of attention. There’s a lot of tension in their scenes.
Could you share with us some of your favorite mirror characters, either from books or movies?
Carol Ann, thanks again for having me over. I’d also like to wish everyone a happy, peaceful and safe Thanksgiving.