|photo by Stuart Miles|
When you develop a character, the first place you start is by Personalizing. Most of you already do this by interviewing your character or filling out a questionnaire about them. Great! That is a good start! But now you need to dig a little deeper.
Basics: General information, such as gender, age, work, social standing, etc...
Specifics: This is where you begin to ask questions. Say your character is wealthy. Has she been wealthy a long time or has she just come into wealth? Knowing the answer to this will tell you her attitude toward her wealth.
Dig Deeper: Keep going with your questions until you can't ask anymore. Let's find out more about the wealthy character in Step 2. Let's say she had just come into wealth. How had she come into her wealth? Did she win the lottery or did she receive insurance money from the death of both her parents? Is she excited about the money, or does she resent the money because it represents the loneliness of being without family? Let's say she won the lottery and is excited about her money. Is she going to go crazy and spend it, or is she going to hoard it, fearful it might run out? If she goes crazy and spends it, what might she spend it on and why? She might purchase cars if she has had to drive old, beat-up jalopies. Or she might buy nice jewelry and clothes if she had been forced to wear hand-me-downs or shop at thrift stores.
But don't stop there...dig deeper. Why does she feel the need to buy nice things? Maybe she felt like people looked down on her for wearing old, worn-out clothes. Maybe she was teased or made fun of. Her self worth is tied up in how she looks, so now she dresses nice and gets her hair and nails done to feel good about herself. She is worthy now that she has money. That is her inner value.
Traits and Mannerisms: What kind of traits or mannerisms will your character have resulting from their inner value? Our wealthy lady may continually push her hair behind her ears to show off her large diamond earrings. She may click her long, manicured fingernails together subconsciously. You don't need to give your characters an overabundance of traits, but you need some to reinforce their inner value and make them believable.
This is not a one time process. There will be times when your character will want to do something that is "out of character". Start the process over until you know your character's motivation and inner value. You can also do this process in reverse. Start with a quirky mannerism and work your way back to the specifics. Get to know your character inside and out.
This post is just a little taste of all the good information Brandilyn Collins shared in her book, Getting Into Character, Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors. Check it out!
What is your process for characterization? How do you build a character and make them real?
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Sherrinda is a minister's wife and mother to three giant sons and one gorgeous daughter. A born and bred Texan, she writes historical romance filled with fun, faith, and forever love.