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Decoding Character Actions: A Dive into Literary Behavior

What motivates the creatures of fiction to act in certain ways? Though imaginary, characters’ behaviors carry real emotional impacts. By delving deeper into the motivations behind actions, readers gain insight into what it means to be human. Let’s examine some techniques authors employ to bring multidimensional character actions to life on the page.

What Inspires Literary Character Actions?

At their core, character actions are informed by the same types of influences that guide real human behavior. Skillful authors delicately craft backstories and developmental experiences for their characters to endow even surface-level actions with nuanced thematic depth. Some key inspiratory elements include:

Trauma from One’s History

Pivotal adverse experiences can remain deeply embedded in one’s psychology, priming avoidant behaviors or risk-taking tendencies as involuntary coping strategies when faced with trauma triggers. Memories linger in wounds that shape the present.

Social Roles and Expectations

The familial or cultural roles characters occupy often compel certain actions aimed at fulfilling duties or gaining approval to preserve status and relationships crucial to one’s identity and sense of purpose.

Psychological Defense Mechanisms

Childhood wounds or past failures can leave underlying emotional vulnerabilities that drive maladaptive behaviors as instinctive means of self-soothing or redirecting pain through distraction.

Inner Values Conflicts

Struggles can arise when cherished principles or aspirations diverge from easier yet less noble paths of giving into base urges, spurring tension in decisions.

Environmental Symbolism

Environments hold symbolic significance in evoking character dynamics – the contrasting atmospheres of a church and a bar symbolize distinct mindsets and sets of values.

Recognizing formative influences on literary behaviors allows readers to gain empathy by considering the drives behind actions rather than superficial interpretations alone. It also deepens appreciation for human complexity.

Exploring Literary Reunions

When characters encounter lost connections from their pasts unexpectedly, it often uproots long-settled perceptions and priorities. Skillful authors use these reunions to add dynamism through rekindled dramatic tension. As past figures resurface, characters and readers alike are compelled to carefully reexamine complex relationships and lingering issues left unresolved. A variety of thought-provoking outcomes could stem from such literary reunions:

  • Long-buried feelings may rush back to the foreground, for better or worse, upending the dynamics and self-image that had evolved in another’s absence. Characters experience an identity crisis as masks slip.
  • Original conflicts that drove separation may flare resurfacing repressed anger, or an opportunity arises to finally find reconciliation and closure by addressing festering wounds. Healing or further fracture becomes possible.
  • Ghosts from one’s personal history confront awakened ghosts inside as repressed memories and the emotions attached come crashing back, impossible to continue avoiding. The past literally cannot be escaped.
  • Comparative reflections heighten regarding how much each individual and former relationship dynamic has—or crucially, has not—changed across time and space. Growth may be ambiguous.
  • Questions emerge surrounding the extent history shapes one’s present-day identity and relationships, and whether overcoming it through personal evolution remains plausible or whether life is doomed to simply repeat itself. Change versus stasis occurs.

Well-crafted reunions throw dilemmas at characters, thus readers, demanding substantive reconfiguration. Emotions power actions; stakes intensify through reopened scars augmenting behavioral nuances that propel timely thematic resonances.

Character reunions act as dramatic fulcrums that can propel personal evolution

Guiding Character Growth

Character reunions act as dramatic fulcrums that can propel personal evolution, but only if the author handles them with nuance and care. Whether set in historical or modern-day contexts, thoughtfully developed reunions provide rich opportunities to explore a character’s identity and psyche. Several key techniques allow for meaningful growth:

  • Connect actions directly to formative past experiencestoo demonstrate how history shapes a character’s present-day identity and interpersonal relationships. From teenage betrayals and lost loves to childhood traumas, reference the specific people and incidents that forged beliefs and behavior patterns.
  • Introduce inner conflicts that arise between who the character formerly perceived themselves to be versus the person they now desire to become. Reevaluating how life circumstances and one’s own choices have changed allows for self-reckoning. Conflicts may center around changing moral codes, embracing vulnerability, or confronting masculine ideals.
  • Use reunions as triggers for productive self-reflection, prompting characters to reassess past decisions and desires for their future path. Journaling, conversations, or simply ruminating offers a chance to process emotions and extract wisdom that can guide amended actions.
  • Allow behaviors to oscillate in a realistic, messy fashion that incorporates elements of both change and habitual response patterns. True growth is seldom linear, with slip-ups and backslides as part of the process.
  • Build multi-dimensional, authentic characters facing complex problems that influential people from their histories magnify rather than reduce. Address issues from various angles without pat or overly- tidy resolutions that feel false to life. Character depth sustains readers through ambiguity.

With sensitivity applied across these techniques, the dramatizing effects of character reunions can function as a catalyst for inspiring authentic and meaningful personal transformation.

Literary Examples of Character Actions and Reunions

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: When Jay Gatsby reunites with his lost love Daisy years later, his grand actions, like throwing lavish parties stem from his longing to recapture the past. But the rekindled relationship confrontation repressed truths testing who they’ve become.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Darcy’s pride causes him to act rudely toward Elizabeth at their first meeting. But their chance reunion months later, coupled with learning her family’s true circumstances, sparks self-reflection compelling his actions to align with affections instead of social expectations.
  • Les Misérables by Victor Hugo: Jean Valjean’s traumatic past as a prisoner shapes him to initially act through deception. Yet, when encountering Inspector Javert years later, the confrontation activates Valjean’s lifelong internal conflict between recidivism and redemption, catalyzing a climactic resolve.
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: Amir’s actions are long defined by the unresolved guilt from betraying his friend Hassan as a boy. But upon reuniting with the family in his adult life, Amir faces his traumatic history head-on, obliging a journey of atonement aligning behavior with his redeemed values.
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison: Sethe’s actions are still dictated by her traumatic choice to kill her daughter rather than allow her back into slavery years prior. Yet when “Beloved” mysteriously returns, the reunion forces Sethe to relive her history and exorcise ghosts of the past through redemption-seeking actions.

These classic examples showcase how impactful reunions can activate compelling character development through consequential actions when skillfully written into fiction.

Character actions

Dennis’ latest novel explores how character actions bring themes of resilience to life

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Understanding what drives character behaviors offers a window into humanity. By diving deeply into the motivations behind literary actions, readers gain insight into life’s emotional depths and potential for change.

Order your copy of Balm of Angels by Charles Dennis today to experience how character reunions and multifaceted actions bring themes of resilience, redemption and the indomitability of the human spirit to life.


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