Creating a Character
Welcome to Week 4 of ‘Writerly Witterings,’ a blog series I am writing alongside my latest novel which is in its early stages.
Writerly Witterings is updated every Monday with a new aspect around writing and is followed up with a Facebook Live every Saturday at 5.00pm. Thanks to everyone who has engaged with me on Facebook. Last week the topic was ‘Planning to Write,’ and the debate was around ‘Plotting’ or ‘Pantsing.’ Being a lifelong ‘plotter,’ it was great to hear writers putting forth their experiences around the opposite strategy of being a ‘pantser.’
This week’s topic will continue with the theme of planning and will focus on creating a character. As a Creative Writing Teacher, I always suggest to my course participants that they carry a notebook to capture interesting characters they might encounter. Often characters find us before we find them, especially the main ones, but we might need to be a little more inventive when getting to know our secondary characters.
Character is the driving force behind most writing. Even in poetry, a person we encounter can be the inspiration behind it. Life story is the easiest to tackle as we already have our characters – we might just need to go back in time a little, to become reacquainted. But when writing fiction, we need to know our characters as fully as possible prior to bringing them to the page.
Using photographs to create a character
There’s no limit to the amount of photographs available through sites like Google images of 'random' people. Pick one that intrigues you and then let your imagination run riot. Think about who they might be and where they might have come from.
Get to know your potential characters well
The more you know your characters, the more your readers will too. Think about what makes them tick. Their hopes, fears, secrets and dreams. Just like a real person, their personalities should be as multi-dimensional as possible. Even when creating a ‘dark’ character, there will be a reason they are the way they are and elements of their character that will be ‘lighter.’
Hear your character’s voice
I advocate writing a monologue for each of your characters before you start writing. When you read it aloud, you will hopefully be able to ‘hear’ their voice, accent and tone.
See how your characters react
You could put your characters into a variety of situations to see how they’ll react – this in itself can spark off shorter stories. In one of my courses, I give a ‘handout’ with possible scenarios to land characters in, just to write a paragraph on. Contact me to request a copy.
Give your characters space
When doing a repetitive action such as walking, swimming or even the washing up, allow your characters do drift around in your mind. Before long they will start to live within you and take on lives of their own. It is a really exciting process.
Consider All Your Characters
Not just the main protagonist, but also their relationships with the secondary characters. They will have their own agendas which will possibly conflict with those of the main character. This is often the essence of story and what creates the intrigue and tension.
Even for writers who claim never to plan, I feel that some element of planning is vital in terms of character creation. It is hard to tell the story of a group of strangers – far easier if we take the time to get to know them a little first.
I’d love to hear what methods and techniques other writers use in their character development. The more strategies we can share with one another, the better. Post into the comments to share what works for you or if you have any questions.
I’ll follow this blog post with another Facebook Live on Saturday at 5pm, which will expand on some of these points, as well as dealing with questions or comments I receive from other writers. I hope you can join me!
Next Monday, I will be discussing another aspect of planning, bringing a setting to life. In the meantime, have a fabulous writing week everyone.
With best wishes, Maria