“Curiosity killed the cat…but satisfaction brought him back.”
Curiosity, as a behavior and an emotion, is often considered the driving force behind human development, and discoveries in science language and industry.
However, it’s often perceived to be negative even though the desire to know something or learn something isn’t new or unusual. This might be because the first thoughts that come to mind are a busybody neighbor, or an intrusive mother in law—someone whose motivations seem pointed and possibly sketchy as fuck. I mean, if someone I barely know starts asking me a lot of personal questions, it gets my back up almost immediately. Like, “first of all, who are you to be asking me all of these questions?” But honestly, these reactions describe what happens when curiosity goes left. I’d rather think about the ways we can use curiosity to expose larger themes in our stories, or as an impetus for a character to explore the world we have created.
In its purest form, curiosity is reminiscent of a child discovering the world around them. Babies and children are always trying to make sense of their reality, and it’s an essential part of their intellectual development. While this sort of curiosity may seem juvenile, this is a good starting point to showing a character’s curiosity.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re crafting a curious character:
1. Curiosity has two distinct classifications: state and trait. These classifications determine whether your character’s curiosity comes from within their mind or if it happens outside of them.
State curiosity is external. It’s an interest in knowing how things work and why things are the way they are. This interest encourages us to investigate and acquiring that knowledge serves as its own reward.
Trait curiosity is internal and can be attributed to a character with an interest in learning. This character is the adventurous type who will try new foods and travel to new places just for the sake of having that experience. This character has an insatiable need to exist outside of their comfort zone and will distrust anything or anyone that tries to make them stick to things they consider “safe.”
2. Curious characters exhibit exploratory behavior; the desire to explore and investigate a new environment. Children between twelve and eighteen months often combine play and exploration, which is a trait that continues through childhood, and if they’re lucky, adulthood. We’ve all seen kids do this and we’ve done it ourselves when we encounter something new or unusual. When you’re incorporating exploratory behavior into your curious character’s personality, dig deep for that child-like innocence and surprise at a new discovery, but also make sure that it’s age appropriate.
3. Morbidly curious characters are focused on objects of death, violence, or any other event that may cause physical, emotional, or mental harm. A reasonable level of interest is often satisfied with one encounter or interaction with morbidity. Quite often, your character may be drawn to investigate what they fear or don’t understand and will gain all the knowledge they need from that one experience. However, this curiosity is often described as having an addictive quality. When you’re writing a morbidly curious character, make sure that curiosity is grounded in a substantial backstory. This is also a great emotion to explore with a character who is a detective, private investigator, or forensic specialist.
It’s important to remember that curiosity is so much larger than one simple question that can be simply answered.
No matter how you decide to craft your curious character, you need to make sure that you are not only asking questions, but also answering these questions in a way that will either satisfy the reader, or if you’re writing a series, make them want to pick up the next book!
Next week, we’ll explore anger!
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