A strange thing happened to me at the grocery store the other day. I was headed down the dairy aisle when I was brought up short by a woman who was blocking the aisle. She turned around, took one look at me, and asked what she needed to make cabbage rolls.
"Ah, cabbage, hamburger, rice, and tomatoes."
"Yes, tomatoes and rice. I just went blank on the ingredients. Thank you."
And off she went down the aisle in search of tomatoes and rice.
Now, I get strange requests at the grocery store all the time. I've reached items on high shelves for a few, found items for men who seemed at a loss as to where that item they came for was located. I must have one of those faces that says, 'yes, I can help you'. But the cabbage roll ingredients stumped me.
Other than I live in a community where cabbage rolls, better know in the area as halupki, are a staple. How did this woman know I could help her? How could she take one look at me and know that I could reel off the ingredients like a Polish cook? Other than myself, no one in my family has ever made cabbage rolls.
All of this got me thinking about characters. It's easy in movies, when you see Bruce Willis in a film you know that he's going to save the world, or the girl. But how do you get that across in your stories? Is your character's actions and dialogue enough to do the job or do you have to paint a vivid description to get your point across? Truth is, it's probably a combination of all three.
But then again, what a reader sees in their mind isn't always what the writer is seeing. There has to be a point of trust between the two, a subtle knowledge that the character knows what he/she's doing. The writer has to be true to the character he's written and the reader must trust that the writer isn't going to make the character do something stupid. As a writer you must keep your character in character. Just something to think about when you're writing.
And yes, I'm off to the kitchen to put together some cabbage rolls for the crock pot. :)