Getting To Know Your Characters

Dawnies, over the weekend, I was cleaning out some of my older books when I came across one of my old favs from my vampire days. Now, everyone has their own opinions about the movies, but I loved the Twilight series. My favorite character, of course, Bella.

These days, the only time I hear that name is when my daughter refers to me as Bella for her baby. Yes, I am a new grandmother, but I am not called grandma or mother, I am called Bella.

For me, Bella was the character who had the most growth throughout the series ultimately becoming what she wanted to be most of all, a vampire. As I got to know her character through the books, I would often think about getting to know characters as a writer. Now, Dawnies, I know I cannot be the only one who feels a personal connection to characters I develop as I am sure Stephenie Meyer had.

Building a personal relationship with characters, in my opinion, is, in fact, the best way to develop them. Weird? Of course not. As a writer/novelist, you will develop a deep connection with the people you bring to life on a page. In order to write characters with in-depth complexities or surface simplicities, we must know what he or she wants.

When I begin developing a character, it is much like meeting someone for the first time. I say hello or ask how he or she is doing. I notice their gender and race. If the stranger and I want to get better acquainted, diving deeper is a must. I learn their age, social class, sexuality, level of education, place of birth, number of siblings, occupations, hobbies, talents, etc.

The more time, I spend getting to know this person, the more facts come pouring in. For example, I find out if he or she likes black jellybeans. I learn that he or she runs their fingers through and twirls hair when nervous. He or she sleeps on a floor through a bed is available. Soon, I begin to understand their wants and needs.

By understanding wants and needs, we are able to gain insight into internal motivations. The difference between a character on a page and a real person is where you begin to build the narrative arc. Just as you dive deeper when getting to know someone, dive deeper into your character by probing them. Your probe may be as simple as their favorite ice cream or asking them about their relationship with their parents. As you continue to dive, you will begin to find out what makes them tick.

As with any relationship, it is important to learn character traits as it relates to how they react under pressure and to change. Humans do not like change, so it is important to develop characters that will go through something that will cause a huge transformation in their lives and a great way to show it is to develop a timeline. A timeline will help you write a well-developed history. This history may include how they are perceived by others.

Just as I may inquire from someone who knows about the new person in my life, you want to do the same with your character. Your character will have a past life just as we all do.

I hope you have enjoyed this bit of advice. As Ray Bradbury wrote: “Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.” Without well-developed characters, our plots may fall along the wayside.

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