Welcome to my weekly ‘Diary of a hopeful author.’ This week it’s all about how to write real-life characters…
Sometimes I have trouble getting into character. Writing for me, see, is like method acting – I have to get into the part, feel what my character(s) feel. But I’ve been finding this year that, when I’m stacked busy, nailing a sense of character, of who they actually are as a person – a real three dimensional being – has been frustratingly difficult.
Life gets in the way, and by life I mean work. Once you get published, I’ve found there are so many elements you have to get involved in – deadlines, articles, meetings, not to mention any day job you may have – that writing, the fitting it in, becomes pretty tricky. Oh the irony.
So, after reaching a point where I didn’t know my characters as well as I wanted (needed) to, I had to take action. I don’t know about you, but for me, characters are pivotal in a book. You can’t achieve anything, I believe – good plot, great prose – if you don’t have a complete character image in your head. I need to know the people in my book as if they were real, and while that sounds odd, I guess, here’s the thing: when you write a character they must seem real. They must feel three-dimensional – every nuance, flaw, thought, mindset must be analysed.
So how do you do it? Well, I first imagine that I am them (yup…). I go out, initially, walk into town and think to myself: how would my main character feel if they were here? What would they see, think, notice that perhaps I would not?
When I return home, what I do next what I do is write all the characters, the main ones, on a page down the left hand side, jotting down bullet points of their key character traits. Then, along the top row, I’ll write, say, three different scenarios e.g. having to gain information from a new source. Then I will jot down against each character how they would react in that situation, what they would do. See, what this does is begin to create a real life person in your mind. Because we are real – me, you – and we all react differently to situations. And THAT is what you want to emulate in your writing. The more you do it – imagining how your characters would respond to various scenarios – the easier it is to not only relate to your character, but, ultimately, write them with a three-dimensional touch too.
So, if you’re struggling with your characters, give it a go. Pop them in your head, go for a walk then return to the page and write down how they would act. And all of a sudden what you’ll find is your characters will start to pop into life from the page, and you’ll not only know who they are, but you’ll know how to write about them, too.
Happy writing 🙂
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