An Expansion

This is kind of an expansion of the last post I published on the site.


How do we build them in a poem? There are a lot of ways in fiction that we build characters, be it through dialogue, actions, thoughts, and interactions with others in the story. I’ve noticed that in a lot of my poems, my speakers and subjects have one goal in mind and if they deviate from this whatsoever, the point of the poem will be lost.

How do we create rounded characters in a poem that stretches across only a few lines?

Do we need to build characters from the ground up? In fiction, we focused on a lot of different aspects, usually compiling them into a character bio and working off that. Starting with the basics, we have name, age, gender, and general appearance. But then we expand. What’s their favourite food and why? Who was their first kiss and did it mean anything to them? What are their goals, aspirations? How are they going to get there?

For those of you that have built characters in your poems from the ground up, how did it work out for you? Do you find it easier to create single-minded characters for the sake of the poem? How often do you find yourself using the same person in more than one of your poems?

4 Replies to “An Expansion”

  1. I guess that creating characters in poetry is easy for me because even if the character I have created seems to have nothing in common with my life, it usually does. This the trick I use for creating characters in poetry; I try to put a little bit of myself in the character. For example, my poem “Dear Brother” is completely fictional because I haven’t lost my mother, but it’s true in the sense that I do have a sister. So, what I would suggest is giving the character you are creating a detail that is similar to something in your life. And it can be something simple, really simple, like your character could use a word that you say everyday.

    Since I base my characters from something about me then you could say that I usually find myself using the same character in my poems. But I wouldn’t say that. I think a better way of explaining how I believe that I use different characters in my poems is that instead of creating new characters from scratch, I create characters from the microwaveable pizza crust that is my life. I add sauce, cheese, and meat to create a new character.

  2. Once readers can distinguish a voice from other mentioned figures in a poem, characterization has been established. The tone of the voice–colloquialism or formal diction–this all creates a character. The definition of “character” is much more elusive in poetry, but don’t be mistaken: it is there. I tend to use voice or poetic address to create narrative. Narrative as compared to lyric will always flesh out characters. So I say, when yearning to create characters begin with a story–much like fiction, characters will flock to a story all on their own. This where flash fiction and poetry meet–and what a fusion it is!

  3. If I’m writing a poem about a specific character or persona, I tend to want to include so much about them that the poem is fast, jumbled and confusing. Because people are so many things at once and, as a poet, I like exploring those complexities, I find myself wanting to include everything good, bad, and in-between about my character. I feel your pain! Especially because a good poem, to me, is able to express a lot with very few, well-chosen words, I have a hard time fitting characters into poems. My poem originally titled “Easy Lover” was trying to flesh out a character with lots of complexity in very few lines, and in the end I just wanted to scream because creating a character is so difficult, and to see yourself fail at embodying them is so much worse. I hope you find the answers you’re looking for, because I’d like to know as well!

  4. I guess my biggest issue is that I don’t know how much is enough, or too much. How much characterization do we put into a poem before it’s just a detailed list of traits? What if we put in a characterization that makes sense to us, but isn’t easily seen within the context of the poem?

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