Yes, This Will Be On the Test

Writing, Reading, Laughing

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Designing a Character: Using Light-Purpose

In the spirit of: "It ain't nice 'til you've read it twice," here's the next installment of the Designing a Character Series from last year.

Why do we need light?  Illumination, right?  Ding, ding, ding…correct.  Ah, but illumination has a myriad of subtexts.

DIRECTING OUR FOCUS: We look where the light is strongest.  It guides our line of vision.  Is your current action bathed in the brightest light?  Are distinct pools of light guiding your reading through moments?

CONTRAST:  We may be looking at the light, but who or what is lurking in the shadows.

MOOD: A character walking out in the midday sun projects a different purpose than a character strolling through the dappled sunlight filtering down along a tree-lined path.

STABLE VS. UNSTABLE: Dependable electric lights shining in a room at night give a secure feeling, safety from the darkness.  The light of a candle or the fire in a fireplace is not so constant.  What are we missing in a character’s face lit sparsely by a flickering light?

STRONG VS. WEAK: Are you exposing your characters with sharp, crisp rays, or do more diffuse beams gently reveal them?

Play with the concept of light.  Let it be a tool to bring an added layer of dimensionality to your characters and scenes.  Try visualizing light that would not be expected in a given situation.  How does that change intention or outcome?


  1. I love the way you look at words and story blocks through a designer's eye. Brilliant!

  2. Love, love, love this! So easy to envision for me as a theatre major!

  3. Stopping by the blog today to say that I've given you the Versatile Blogger award. I know this award has been around awhile and you may have received it already, but if not, come and claim it here:

    Thanks for all you do in the blog-o-sphere! :)

  4. Ooh I remember this one. It really stuck out for me. Good post!! I'm glad you put it out there for those who haven't seen it yet.

  5. Such an interesting subject. I want to post something about this too.

    In my last story there was a lot of simultaneous light and dark. The glare and the shadows.

  6. Lee - The Glare and the Shadows is a great title! Variations of light really tweak our psyche. I'll look forward to your post on the subject.

    Lisa & Julie - Thanks for the thumbs up. Once a lighting designer, always a lighting designer. Or is it you can take the girl out of the light, but you can't take the...

    Tiffany - Our kind must stay together.

    Tina - Thank you, thank you, and thank you. Much appreciated.

  7. Brilliant way to look at characters. It makes so much sense to see it like this!

  8. It helps a great deal to be able to see a character well in the light. The character unseen because of darkness is the one we don't trust and have a tendency to fear. Illumination may change that or it may confirm the negative feelings we had about the character.

    Tossing It Out

  9. Very neat. I think that lighting is a powerful element for setting and mood. :) Always the writer needs to think about what effect they want to create. :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  10. I love playing with light when it comes to photography. I was dying to see how you would relate it to writing. Nicely done.

  11. Thank you, Lydia. Call me brilliant anytime. I won't stop you.

    So true, Lee.

    I agree, Angela. Light and color play a major part in my visualizations.

    Wow, Stina, with your fantastic eye, I'm flattered this worked for you. Hopefully my light part 2 post will also pass muster. Thanks.