Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Books & Writing: Characters Readers Can Believe In

My last blog post on Books and Writing was about a book I'd recently read, Rosslyn Elliott's Sweeter Than Birdsong.. I thoroughly enjoyed the story. After writing the post I thought it would be fun to take look at this book and a few others and discover why we love them.

The characters in Rosslyn's novel were finely drawn--she did her homework and I found them vivid and real.
So, this week, I'd like to wade into the process of creating believable characters, people we believe in and care about enough to stay with through an entire novel. And discover those unique and memorable characters that we carry with us long after putting a book down. If readers don't care about the characters they won't care about the story. Joyce Scott, a fellow writer, once said while describing her characters, "They're a long term relationship . . . like the rest of your life. The characters and their stories are real to me and so they live on as long as I do." 

She's exactly right. That's who they need to be if we're going to know them well enough to write their stories. We've got to know them inside and out, what motivates them . . . who they are.

·         Today we'll look at the place to begin, with some very basics. In coming weeks we'll dig deeper to discover who our characters are and what makes them tick. Why do they do what they do. I build a character profile for every person in a story--the larger role they play, the more information I include. To begin with we need to know . . .

Basic Facts:
  • Find a photograph that represents your character.
  • It can be someone you know, an actor/actress, photo from a magazine or newspaper.
  • I used to use files for characters, but now it's very easy to find photographs online. 
  • Beginning with a photo helps create a three-dimensional person in your own mind, one that you can actually see.
Bring your characters to life:
  • List your character's physical characteristics. You must take the time to do this before you begin writing or you may begin a book with a blue-eyed, blonde and end up with a dark-haired gal with brown eyes. 
Things to consider
  • Hair--Is it long, short, dark, blonde, greasy, stringy, curly, or . . . ?
  • Eyes--What color are they? Shape. Are they cool, warm, compassionate, cruel?
  • Skin--What kind of complexion do they have? Is their skin weathered, scarred, pimpled or soft as a new born babe's?
  • Size--Is the character tall, short, fat, thin, burly, petite . . .?
  • Age--How old is this person? Do they look their age? If not, why not?
  • Male or female? Sometimes it's not so easy to tell these days.
Other basics to keep in mind.
  • Ethnicity
  • Mannerisms
  • Speech patterns
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses 
I'm looking forward to digging deeper. Hope to see you here next week.

By the way, what do you think you know about the character in the photograph, just by looking at him? You can tell a lot just by what a person looks like. 

I'd love to hear your feedback--he's a character in a book I'm working on.

Grace and peace to you from God,


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