Do You Know Those Characters?When I began my second novel, I didn't really know the characters. I knew about them--something of what they looked like and how they related to one another, that sort of thing--but they weren't quite real to me. If your characters aren't real to you, they won't be to your readers, either.
I hear you. "But they're people I made up," you say. Yes, but they must have--are you ready for a really big word?--verisimilitude. That just means they must be very similar to real life.
When you write, you're creating a world peopled by your characters. You don't want them to be one-dimensional. They won't seem real if they're all bad, all good, always funny, always sad or mad or . . . anything. People aren't like that. You're not. Neither are your readers, so your characters shouldn't be, either. A character who is all anything is called flat. We want our characters to be rounded, or mufti-dimensional.
Here a Quirk, There a QuirkYou can breathe life into your characters by adding one or two idiosyncrasies, little quirks, habits, or pet words they use. Leah, the main character in one of my novels, doesn't curse, of course, but when she's frustrated, she says, "Oh, snap!"
Notice your friends. What little habits do they have? What word or phrase keeps popping up? Caution! These quirky tidbits should be used sparsely. Too many will jerk the reader out of your story because s/he'll pay too much attention to the quirk.
I'm a visual person. Yes, I can visualize in my mind what a character looks like, but I find it helpful to go on the internet and search for faces. It makes me feel as though I'm casting for a movie of my story. That's fun! Pinterest.com is a handy tool for that. I, like a lot of my writer friends collect pictures of people, places, clothing, etc., that fit a book we're writing. Most of the pictures in this post are of my characters. Figure 5 is Leah. Figure 4 is her friend Trevor. Figure 6 is the man who shoots Leah in the leg. What do your characters look like? It helps to know.
Talking to the Invisible
Another way to get well acquainted with your characters is to interview them. Crazy, I know, but it works. Come up with a list of questions for your main characters. Most of the time, you'll know the answers in advance, but sometimes they surprise you. For example, I interviewed Trevor. His dad died heroically while serving in Iraq. Okay. I knew that. But Trevor knew more details. His dad had thrown himself on a grenade to save the lives of his soldiers. In a valiant act that reminded me of Jesus, Who died in my place on the Cross, Trevor's father had willingly given his own life for others. I hadn't known that. In my interview with Leah, I found out why she is angry with God. All of that sounds a little crazy to people who aren't writers, but character interviews are a common tool we use.
Blogger is acting a little weird today by not letting me type or place photos where I want to, so I'm cutting this post short. Check back in a few days, and I'll post an interview I did with a character. It will give you an idea of what I'm talking about.
Because of Jesus,