Monday, June 13, 2011

Character Analysis: Keiro

Okay, so last week I said something about analyzing characteristics of the Greats (characters who've made my All-Time Favorites list, which is pretty exclusive). I'm still going to be doing that, but I'm at both yearbook camp and Falls Creek through Saturday, so we'll see how that goes.

I do have an analysis for you today, though -- the character Keiro from *Incarceron*. (Sorry. I'm doing this from my phone, and the whole "Italics" concept seems to be freaking it out, so I have to stick with asterixs) by Catherine Fisher.

One of the things I love about how Fisher handled Keiro's characterization is all the layers she gave him. On the outside, Keiro was cold and self-serving, fierce and arrogant. And on some part of the inside, he was -- well, he was still like that. But deep, deep inside -- we're talking waaay down inside, mind you --, he was actually, you know, *human*: insecure, uncertain, even a little *caring*.

Of course, this mix of traits isn't exactly rare in characters in general. From the description I gave above, I'm sure you could name a handful of characters with those same qualities. To me, that only reinforces the ever-mentioned technique of showing-versus-telling. I mean, that list of traits is *okay*. Maybe a little bland, even verging on "stock character" syndrome, but still fine.

Really, though, all of that's just the recipe for a character. If you had all the necessary for a batch of brownies, that still won't cut it if you bungle a step in the process -- say, the amount of time in the oven, or cracking the eggs before adding eggs to the brownie mix itself. Will it? Uh, no. Because you didn't follow through with the right particulars -- you did everything, but maybe not in the right way --, the brownies didn't turn out quite right. Didn't "rise to their potential" or whatever. (Plus, no one's going to eat your brownies. Just warning you.)

*You had all the right components, but the execution just wasn't there.*

I think it's the same principle with characters. You have to pull them off just right, or you'll miss the mark completely.

The execution of Keiro's characterization -- well, this might sound kind of strange, but it's beautiful. The development, reveal, building up -- it's the Goldilocks scenario, "just right," spot-on.

This was partly due to the recipe, sure, but the brilliance was in the execution. Fisher, for the most part, is a master of show-versus-tell in *Incarceron* and its sequel, drawing on Keiro's relationship with his oathbrother, Finn, to convey his character more fully. Sure, Keiro mocked Finn, ripped him off, occasionally used him. But whenever Finn needed help, reassurance, or a confidence boost, guess who was there for him? Yeah. Cold, hard little Keiro. My favorite. The character whose motives I couldn't figure out, the one who I couldn't tell if he was good or bad. (He made the list either way.)

And you know what the kicker is? Keiro isn't even a main character. Not a *main*-main one. He's definitely a supportive character, and he's in most of the book, but you never get to see inside his head. Which is what makes the use if showing-versus-telling so important, right?

So. You go read *Incarceron* -- which I've been meaning to review -- while I'm in camp mode. (You know . . . if you want to and all. It's an amazing book, I promise.) In the meantime, have you ever read about a character with the same general "recipe" as Keiro's? Did it work out, or no?


Imogen said...

This is such a coincidence. I've just recently borrowed "Incarceron" from the library and have been looking forwards to treading it. I've already read "Saphique" (or spelling to that effect) and have been longing to read "Incarceron" for a while now. I'm definitely going to take a closer look at Keiro now.

Jenna said...

That's funny! Some fluke, right? Anyways, enjoy!