MORE THAN WORDS
Hello everyone. Happy Saturday. Today I would like to talk about characters.
When you read a novel, what is it about that particular story that sticks with you? What makes it worth reading? Most likely it is the characters. Really, the characters are the story. What they go through, how they handle themselves in certain situations is what makes a story memorable.
But why are they memorable? They are after all not real, only words on paper. How do writers turn words into characters you love or even hate? Let’s take a look and break it down.
First, an author discovers a character. Some do this by basing their character or characters on people they know personally. Others base their characters on people they may have seen in passing: in a store, at work, hair salon, etc.
Now that you have a character in mind, here is a list of five things you should know about him or her before you start writing.
1) Physical appearance.
2) Background, history.
3) Personality, beliefs.
4) Types and patterns of behaviour.
5) Dominant traits.
The next step is adding certain characteristics to this character. His he happy, sad, broody? Maybe your heroine is a worrier, has an anger problem? Also, build what ifs. Give the one dimensional character a history, personality, and problems to solve.
At this stage you will have a rough idea of what your character looks like, know what type of personality he or she has. In essence, you will know the basics, but how do you get to know your character in-depth?
One way to accomplish this is through a character interview. Actors use this exercise to get better acquainted with the character they will play. Three rules apply to this exercise.
1) No planning ahead.
2) You must answer as the character.
3) Make sure the answers are consistent. Example: your character shouldn’t be happy go lucky one minute, then a brooding worrier the next.
You as the writer can play both roles. The interviewer and the interviewee.
Set up questions you would like to know about this character and answer as if you actually are the character. LOL, I have tried this and it is really fun. Some of the answer you come up with will surprise you.
Making a character sketch is another excellent way to flesh out your characters. Begin by writing a description, physical appearance and personality traits. Next apply the setting. This will add even more details to your character. Examples: where he/she works, and lives. Do they live on a farm, in a big city?
Next write a scene of conflict. This helps you learn your character’s values. What he/she stands for. Also, placing two characters together will give you more clues into a character’s behaviour by noticing how they interact with one another.
All these methods will help bring your flat characters out to become characters readers can relate to, fall in love with, and even laugh and cry with. They turn from words on paper to become real people.
The characters in my current WIP are made up of bits and pieces of people I know. For example, my heroine’s job is based on my best friend’s job. But my heroine and my best friend’s personalities are quite different. My heroine’s persona is really based on different traits from all my friends. One of my secondary characters loves jokes and pulling pranks. His behavioural qualities are very similar to mine.
I have read many, many novels over my life and some—most–I can’t even remember their titles, but I remember names of certain characters that have touched my heart.
Until next week, happy writing