About a year ago I watched The Book of Eli, a futuristic/post-apocalyptic type movie that really fascinated me. I highly recommend it!
The main character, Eli, in particular was intriguing.
As I watched, I realized how deeply his characterization was based in subconscious and conscious action. The actor (I think it was Denzel Washington?) pulled off the characterization and hooked the viewer by using the smallest details to portray emotion.
The writers or producer or maybe it was the actor himself used subconscious and conscious action to make the character come alive.
For example, in the movie Eli is traveling when he hears screams. He hides behind something and mutters to himself over and over, "There's nothing I can do." This is a conscious action not to help. He is choosing to remove himself from the situation. His repetition is subconscious though. He's trying to convince himself that it's true...or he's trying to comfort himself. Either way, we feel the weight of his guilt.
Later in the movie, a female protagonist enters the story. She is also almost raped and this time Eli helps her. When she cries, he moves forward and then stops himself. When she hugs him, the camera pans in and I notice he does NOT hug her back. Those are subconscious actions that reflect his internal turmoil.
When we create characters in situations, these tiny details will really show who a character is. The details themselves may not be noticed by a reader or viewer, but their impact is felt.
How do you use gestures and thoughts to deepen your character? How would you describe your main character, and how do you reinforce that personality/character trait in each scene? Do you have any specific quirks or impulses that appear in your daily life and give a clue to who you are?