Burn Notice: Perfect to learn the art of characterization

Fishubby and I recently started watching a series on Netflix called Burn Notice.

It. Is. Awesome.

And, every episode is the perfect example of how to tell a story. Conflict, motivation, deep characterization, everything.

I want to focus on characterization in this post.

Each character in Burn Notice has his or her own quirk that makes them different from every other character.

Sam Axe loves him some mojitos and is always good for a beer or a free lunch; and is the only character who calls Michael "Mikey".

Michael Westen's mom, Madeline, is a chain smoker (always seen with a cigarette between her lips).

Even minor characters, like Virgil Watkins, have their own distinctive "thing." Virgil, for example, can always get his hands on a boat for Fiona Glenanne to blow up.

Fiona is trigger happy and I swear that woman is always packing C4 to blow shit up.

Seymour (an arms dealer) loves his smoothies and has a useless body guard he calls Jackass.

Aside from that there are other simple little things, plot devices perhaps? Like there's always at least one container of yogurt in Michael's fridge. Blueberry. One episode, however, there was no yogurt. Sadly I can't remember if this meant anything significant (like perhaps it was to show just how bad a situation was for Michael), but since we always could count on the yogurt, it not being there had to mean something!

These simple things are so important in characterization. I learned in the Boot Camp I went to back in March to go big, go over the top. I've been doing that with the story aspect of my current WIP, but I need to evaluate how I'm going big and over the top with my characters. Is each character different? And is each difference different?

You can have a million gray haired men in your book, but if you have a gray haired man with a red beard who smokes cigars, that makes him different from the rest.

How are your characters different?

Keep Writing!
Claire L. Fishback

P.S. I'll see you at Colorado Gold this weekend!!!


One of my favorite shows!!!
Giles Hash said…
I LOVE that show! My buddy, Todd, wrote a blog about why every writer should watch that show, and I have to agree with pretty much everything he says :)(it can be found here -> http://blog.todd-newton.com/2011/11/why-writers-should-like-burn-notice.html). And great pick, for sure!

See you at the conference.
Thanks for sending me to your friend's blog, Giles! His post was a lot more in depth than mine, but basically mirrors everything I think about that show. It is just freakin' awesome.

Can't wait to meet you!

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