The 4Ds

And none of them is Daniele, pity

We imagined our characters, maybe watching a colleague closely for years or just having a glimpse of an old woman on the way back home in the metro. Whatever the case, we have the first idea of our characters and a vague idea of the plot. Now, we decided to tide up our characters (or nicely invite them to a tea party), and we started questioning them. We saw how comfortable it is to ask easy questions and how uncomfortable it makes us ask some more profound, strictly personal questions. 

It’s totally fine. But it’s still not enough. With your characters, you need to ask questions about their past, their dark secrets, and their manias. Think about how challenging it is for you to ask any question to a complete stranger, even where to find the closest pharmacy. And now consider how challenging is to answer a question since it’s still you speaking through your character.

4 Ds shape your characters

Suppose someone is describing a car to you:

“With a maximum top speed of 105 mph (169 km/h), a curb weight of 1993 lbs (904 kgs), the TR3 has a naturally-aspirated Inline 4 cylinder engine, Petrol motor. This engine produces a maximum power of 101 PS (100 bhp – 74 kW) at 5000 rpm and a maximum torque of 159.0 Nm (117 lb.ft) at 5000 rpm. The power is transmitted to the road by the rear wheel drive (RWD) with a 4-speed Manual gearbox. On the topic of chassis details responsible for road holding, handling behavior and ride comfort, the TR3 has Coil springs. Front suspension and Semi-elliptic leaf springs. De Dion axle. Rear suspension. The TR3 braking system includes the front and rear for stopping power. The TR3 model is a Cabrio car manufactured by Triumph, sold new from 1955. I’m going to sell my apartment to buy it.”

If you are ignorant of car matters, you’d most probably find this description ultimately futile. You have a lot of information, but you didn’t give anything useful to the general reader; no emotions mean no way for the reader to follow you into your story. Also, when that person added he would sell his apartment to buy it at the end of the description, you probably thought he was insane. Let’s imagine another person describing to you the same car in this way:

“Yesterday, an old man approached me at the market and asked me if I had ever watched La dolce vita by Federico Fellini. I’d never seen him before and found that question really odd. At any rate, I wouldn’t lose anything answering back, so I did. I told him that I’m a cinema connoisseur and mostly into old Italian movies. So he told me that he had the original car from the movie, the excellent Triumph TR3. That’s a magical, convertible, fashionable car as no one does anymore. When you accelerate, you feel the engine almost speaking to you, a roar full of stories and secrets. That’s more than a car. It’s an obsession now. I’m going to sell my apartment to buy it.”

Now, even if you’ve never heard of the car before, you probably start visualizing yourself seated in the front seat of this cult car, the engine speaking to you. You know this person is a cinema connoisseur and all the information you acquired is helpful in understanding the ultimate decision. It’s still a crazy conclusion to make, selling an apartment to buy a car, but now you know why. There’s a reason behind it.

Well, what we’ll do next time is to analyze the 4 Ds that will shape your characters and, therefore, your story:

Keep reading!

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