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I am working on a series of short stories and am having trouble bringing out the characteristics of one of my characters in descriptions and in his dialogue. My story is set in South Korea.

  • One character is a Korean single dad struggling to take care of his five kids on his own. He's a smart guy and dedicates most of his time to his kids, neglecting himself.
  • My other main character is a Japanese man living in Korea. This character grew up in a strict household where no mistakes were tolerated, and as a result he is very serious himself. He owns his own modeling company, a family business, and works under the watchful eye of his father. He has an attractive girlfriend but feels his life is missing something. He's not strict all the time, and he knows how to have fun. He respects his elders and is a caring person.

I have the single parent down but I'm having trouble with the Japanese businessman. I don't want to tell my readers about his character; I want to show them. Here is what I have so far:

Looking out the window. The sky was tar black with large clouds moving slowly. They looked just about ready to burst. It looks like I was right because a few seconds later I heard tapping on the windows and then it became a pitter patter. People ran for cover outside umbrellas were opened as the clouds spat out their beads of water. The pitter patter of the rain came down harder against the car. Ultimately fogging the windows and blurring my sight.

"Mr. Park are you alright?" The light voice of my secretary Areum pulled my attention towards her.

Before answering I studied her appearance. Areum had waist length black hair and the fairest skin you'll ever see. Her eyes were the lightest milk brown. Hm... No wonder she was getting married if so soon. "I'm fine," I answered, my attention back outside...

I'm having troubling speaking his language, in a sense talking like him.

I see him being strict as a strength because some way down the road in the story he is going to help the single dad with his kids and in return the single dad will help his company flourish. Yes, I write scenes with him, but I'm never satisfied with what I write. I can never get his character down. I know what I want to write but it's just that I'm having trouble fitting him in a scene or a proper setting to start him out.

Note: I'm not from south Korea or anywhere in any part of Asia or Europe. I'm half way around the world, so I guess it's the cultural differences too that I'm having trouble with.

  • @arayst welcome to Writers. I think I see what you're trying to ask, and I've made a major edit to try to focus and clarify the question. Did I get it right? If so we can reopen this. If not, please edit further. If I got it totally wrong, you can roll back my edit by clicking on "edited by" above my name, finding your last version in the revision history, and clicking "rollback" there. Thanks for bringing your question here, and I hope I haven't done violence to it in trying to help you get an answer. – Monica Cellio Oct 4 '15 at 17:05
  • @MonicaCellio hi! thank you sooo much. you've edited it perfectly thats exactly what i wanted to say. i guess my mind was all over the place. thank you so much and yes you did it right. you can reopen it. thanks alot :) im very greateful. – arayst Oct 4 '15 at 18:46
  • @arayst glad to help! I've reopened it, and I trust our community will be able to offer some helpful answers. Thanks for working with us on getting this on track. (I'm going to clean up some of these comments now.) – Monica Cellio Oct 4 '15 at 19:07
  • ok thank you..can i still edit it? – arayst Oct 4 '15 at 19:12
  • Yes, you can still edit -- go for it. (Once it has answers, don't edit in a way that would invalidate those answers.) – Monica Cellio Oct 4 '15 at 19:13
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How to make the strict, critical, perfectionist character come alive?

Conflict.

That's usually a good answer to make any character come alive, but it is particularly apposite for someone who will be deeply irritated by the sloppiness he sees all around him. Perhaps he sees workers in his company doing work that is not up to his high standards and criticises them for it. He sees his criticism as useful and constructive and cannot understand why they react with resentment. Perhaps he is shocked by his girlfriend's messy habits, and quarrels with her as a consequence, almost forgetting in the heat of the moment that he loves her.

You have already mentioned another source of conflict, namely cross-cultural tensions. Such tensions are a very common reason why two good people can end up angry with each other despite both having benign intentions. That is a sad situation in real life, but in a book it helps to keep the reader hooked. The often bitter relations between Japan and Korea provide many potential flashpoints, as do the differences in manners and customs between those two countries.

It will be all the more satisfying to see your characters eventually come together to help each other if they have successfully overcome painful conflict between them.

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