So, before I talk about characterization, what is Symbolic Interactionism?
"The term "symbolic interaction" refers, of course, to the peculiar and distinctive character of interaction as it takes place between human beings. The peculiarity consists in the fact that human beings interpret or "define" each other's actions instead of merely reacting to each other's actions. Their "response" is not made directly to the actions of one another but instead is based on the meaning which they attach to such actions. Thus, human interaction is mediated by the use of symbols, by interpretation, or by ascertaining the meaning of one another's actions. This mediation is equivalent to inserting a process of interpretation between stimulus and response in the case of human behavior." (Blumer, p. 180). (Source)Now, I know for a fact that I behave differently around family than I do with friends and/or my spouse, but I've never really stopped to think about why. But, you see, the why is very useful ...
Let me first give you a simple scenario:
Just say the mother of, let's call her Gina, and a friend of Gina's were to visit her home (at different times), and notice a new pot plant in the corner of Gina's lounge room, and they were to suggest she put it by the window to get more sun light. Gina's instinctual response to her mother is, "I'll put it where I want to put it, thank you very much." The mother then opens her mouth to defend herself, but Gina interrupts asking if she'd like a cup of coffee to quickly move on from the issue. But her simple response to her friend is, "Hmm, that's probably a good idea." Gina then moves the plant to the window.
Now, before I continue talking about the above scenario, let me tell you that Bitter Like Orange Peel is told from the perspective of many different people, so readers will get to see characters' behavior from many different angles, which is HARD, but so so interesting and entertaining for me to write, and a nice challenge too (I'm always up for a good challenge). It also helps me to make their motivations clear because I have to ask myself, for example, Why do we perceive the mother as a cold-hearted, clinical, bitch through the daughter's eyes, but when we see the mother through her best friend's eyes, we discover how kind and generous and vulnerable she is? My point is that I need to answer such questions about my characters in order to decide on simple behaviors such as Gina's plant scenario. The answers to these questions may not be dealt with directly in my story, but they will be insinuated through behavior. And this, my friends, is what I call good characterization.
Sometimes the simplest of behaviors paint a picture worth a thousand words ...
So tell me, what do you think the plant scenario says about the relationship between Gina and her mother? Without being told their history, and perhaps using the diagram to help you, what do you think are some possible reasons for Gina's (and the mother's) reaction?