Time for having tea. Aristocratic gentleman with bright makeup has image of fictional character holds cup of drink wears big hat has wondered expression poses over purple wall. Halloween celebration

Bring Your Characters to Life: Part 1

Bring your characters to life. Make them alive, authentic, believable, relatable, just as the person reading the story is. 

You must learn to be three people at once. Writer, character, and reader.

Nancy Cress

You have built your story. Now it is time to bring your characters to life. A great way to build that depth is to know them, inside and out.  Oftentimes, if your story is based on your own life events, you have an idea of who your characters are. Particularly if they are coming from a personal story that you are basing off of yourself. You know a lot about yourself and the people close to you. Though this may help you further develop your own self-based characters by becoming more self-aware. This article is for those characters you still need to develop.

Characterization requires self-knowledge, insight into human nature . . . it is more than impersonation.

Leon Surmelian

RELATED: Inspiration Sourcing #1: Look Within

Use Your Imagination

You can build out your characters using your own imagination. A great way to do this is to ask yourself questions about your new character:  What is their purpose in your story? Are they the main character or supporting? How did they get there? What do they look like? What is their favorite food?  If they had one hundred dollars to spend right now, what would they buy? What is important to them?  What is their favorite music? Who was their childhood best friend? Did/do they have pets? How many siblings do they have? When they were young, what did they want to be when they grew up? How do they financially support themselves?  Determine their desires, their secrets? What do they like to do for fun? Dissect their psyche. Interview your character like a really creepy/intense first date. That probably wouldn’t turn into a second.

If, however, you want to write a character from the ground up, a character who is as real as any person living, yet wholly your own creation, then there are three aspects you need to know in depth: the physical, sociological and psychological.

mooderino, quote from The Three Dimensions of Character

People Watch

Next- people watch. This will further build out the dimensions of your characters. So, don those dark sunglasses and a big hat, grab your beverage of choice, and sit in a busy place where you can watch a multitude of people.  Watch for people who carry the essence of the characters you are creating. Look at their whole person, good/bad, inner/outer. Observe their body language, figure out their mood, pay attention to their emotions. What are they doing that they don’t want anyone else to know? Ask yourself what is driving them to do what they are doing? Make sure to note in your “nothingbook. “ When you pair these observed actions with the answers from your date with them- these will become the words on your page. This is the blood in their veins, the air in their lungs, and the thoughts in their minds. Run with this. 

RELATED: Opening creativity, part 1 – Observe”

Always be ready for opportunities to study potential characters and store the information for later. Take out the headphones, look up, open your eyes (metaphorically), and be present to the world around you. Simple observations of someone walking across the street could be your inspiration for your next piece.

Learn From Everyone

I am a firm believer that you can learn from every person and animal on this planet. From a young child to an older man, a rich person to a homeless person.  They all have a story. They all have a perspective, so try to get inside their heads. Be humble enough to know you will be far from accurate of their truth, but you can do your best and use their essence to create your characters.  Know your characters as well as you know yourself.  You are writing a living being into your work. Once you spend the time to do this work, your characters will be alive.

At this point, you have done all of your character creation in your own head and from behind your sunglasses. You are not quite ready to send your creation out into the real world and have it be considered a fully functional being. So stay tuned for part two of “Bringing your characters to life. Where we will “Talk to people.” Yes, you will actually have to, or get to, depending on your perspective, make contact…



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