April 2, 2017- We’ve all done it before. Each and every one of us. Either we’ve fallen deeply in love with a character that stirs our souls and makes us empathize with the problems they face in every chapter of the book. Or we’ve wished sudden death and pain and suffering upon a character who’s actions and words make our stomachs churn, and our brains seek revenge for what they’ve put our beloved hero through.
So how are characters created? Where do we find them as writers and how do we plant the seed of them onto paper from our minds? Take a good look around you right now, wherever you are, and you’ve got an idea or ideas for character development. You could be sitting in a hut in Timbuktoo, isolated and alone but you still can create characters. The character could even be you! Here are a few steps that will help you get started with creating characters:
- Use your memory-Think back to a particular time or place in your life and remember the people that were around you. What did they look like? What did they sound like? What quirks and oddities did they possess? Did they have any special features or skills? What was their occupation? What was their family life like? What did they wear? What did they smell like? Using your memory and senses of people you’ve already met or are close to is a surefire way to create believable and memorable characters that readers can relate to. We can all relate to Uncle John who wore thick black glasses, worked as a grocery store produce manager who had the disgusting habit of picking his nose and looking at it. You get the point! Characters are all around you!
- Observe your surroundings-This advice goes part and parcel with the previous point. Sit at the mall for an hour and observe the people that walk past you. What are they doing and why are they at the mall? What are they thinking about? Why are they in a rush? Why are they wearing that? What are they mumbling under their breath? When I have writer’s block which happens to everyone once and a while, I go out! I leave the house and either go to the mall or sit in Starbucks and do this exact thing. Before long I’m scribbling page upon page of ideas for characters. Trust me on this one, it works!
- Write an outline for your character-So important and I do this with EVERY single one of my characters. Let’s use Jessica Westlake, the protagonist in my upcoming thriller, The Ravaged Silence. I know everything about her as I should because I created her! Without giving too much of her away, I’ll just mention a few things about her. She is married, to a successful lawyer. She grew up in a trailer park with abusive parents. She’s had a traumatic brain injury from an accident. She has romantic feelings for her neighbour and wants to escape from her horrific marriage. Her mother was murdered and her father is dead. I also need to mention that it is SO important to write about your character thoroughly right down to the most minimal quality or quirk. The reason is, even if you don’t say it to your reader eg. Jessica loves spying on people while she eats chocolate chip ice cream in her apartment, it will still come through in your writing!
In conclusion, readers don’t need to know every single minor detail about your characters but as an author, you do.