Let’s face it, for some characters, it’s easy. They pop into your imagination fully formed and say, ‘Pick me, I’m yours; complete with flavours and flaws – all ready to leap into the pages of your story”.
With others, you might spend the entire journey trying to wrestle them into shape – perhaps coax them in the direction you want them to go.
One of the things I learned when I was writing Letters to Leonardo is that you have to let your characters follow their own destiny. They’re a lot like your children. You cringe, worry, sit back and watch while they do their own thing and make their own mistakes. But this is what makes them ‘real’. And it’s what makes them ‘real’ to the reader.
So how do you get to know these people who occupy so many of your waking moments, and some of your sleeping ones – and eventually take over your book?
You ask them questions – lots of questions.
More than just age, name and serial number. You want to know about their favourite sport, what they eat for breakfast, what they got on their last report card….and more!
Now be warned; particularly if you’re writing YA, you might not get a lot of cooperation at first. In fact your characters might start behaving like ‘real’ teens, and respond with grunts and groans and hmmm, ha? yeah, nuh. My advice to you, don’t accept it! Delve deeper – even if it makes your character annoyed, belligerent and downright angry! Keep going until they have told you everything you need to know.
Ask your character this:
- What are your sibling’s most annoying traits?
- What do you like about your siblings?
- If you had a secret, who would you tell it to?
- What are you afraid of?
- What makes you happy?
- What is your favourite food?
- What food makes you want to puke?
- Who is your best friend?
- Who is your worst enemy?
- Describe how you look?
- Describe how you think others see you?
- Do you have any special interests?
- Do you have any special belief systems?
- What do you look for in a friend?
- What do you look for in a partner?
- What are your talents and skills?
- Do any of these talents or skills have a down side?
- What are the things you like most about yourself?
- What are the things you like least about yourself?
- How would you describe your childhood?
- What are some experiences from your childhood that have affected the sort of person you are now?
- How do you feel about discipline?
- Are you someone who fits in with society or someone who fights it?
- How would you spend a typical day?
- What do you want more than anything in the world?
- What is the best thing that could happen to you?
- What is the worst thing that could happen to you?
If you get to know your main character almost as well as you know yourself, you’ll find they tell their own story. You just have to write it down.
I hope this Tuesday Writing Tip will help you bring your characters to life.
Next week, we’re answering a question from Jessica about point of view. Hope you can join us then.
In forthcoming Tuesday Writing Tips, we’ve got some wonderful authors coming to visit to share their writing tips and secrets.
If you have a writing question, leave it in the comments section of this post, and we’ll try to answer it in a future post.
Thanks for visiting.
You’re also very welcome at my Facebook Group, Dee’s Writing Tips & News. If you’d like to join, visit http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=205664860085