Monday, May 24

Breath Life into Your Characters

Without realistic, believable characters, a plot - no matter how original or well thought out - will fall on its proverbial ass.

So, how do we take an idea of "someone" and turn them into a realistic individual that readers can believe in?

The first step is to make them care.

Whether it's a heroine who cares about earning enough money to buy that two-story brick home she's dreamed of since she was a child or the villain who only cares about turning a serious profit in his human-trafficking business.

Even the smaller characters need something to care about. Allow me to explain (please forgive my rather crude, fresh attempt at this:

Mrs. Shook, who's lived down the street from Heroine, cares about her prize Rose bush - which explains why she sits on her porch from sunrise to sunset. Keeping diligent watch over her yard to make sure no one tromps through her yard. One day, as the sun was set, say she witnesses a man skulking around the heroine yard. She promptly calls the police.

Of course, Ms. Shook couldn't have known that the hero was the heroine's husband and was running from crooked cops. Unbeknown to her, she's set the killers on his trail and made his wife (heroine) a prime target as well...

Giving your characters something to care about gives you the power to use it to your advantage - to further your plot or simply create conflict by dangling what they care about just out of their reach.

Let's not forget that character grow can change what they care about as the book progresses. Allowing you to add more layers of conflict… bonus!!

Also, among your characters list of positive traits (Brave, strong, sexy, loyal....yada, yada, yada) give them something(s) that’s not so positive. An oddity, pet peeve, or a quirk that sets them apart from the characters that everyone is thinking of as well.

You must know their past and what gives them all these traits (loyal, nurturing, murderous...)

If your heroine is a brainy recluse who prefers the company of characters in novels over real-life people you must understand why she is this way. Maybe her brother was the family favorite. While he spent his life getting in trouble and she found the only way to get attention was to put her nose in books and get good grades. As a result, she found that she preferred the fantasy world to the real world.

Think of the people around you. Each person is different and unique. Observe them. Of course you can't figure out all there is to know about a person walking down the street but you can make quick assumptions about them. Use that for your characters. Assumptions, mannerism, speech... all these things will help breath life into your fictional characters.

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