Getting to know your Characters

Breathing life into characters that did not exist until you thought them up isn’t easy. At least it’s not for me. I only know how I think and feel but not everyone thinks and feels like me. They didn’t have the same experiences as I did or the same upbringing. Not all share my beliefs, tastes, and loves. This realization has to be applied to my characters and even though they are not “real”, in the book world they are.

I’ve touched on this before on my other blog but as it is something I am still struggling with I thought I would write about some techniques I am using to help me. The first thing I have been doing is people watching. I watch how they interact with one another, their speech patterns and body language. Do they have a go to phrase or do they speak only when they have something to say?

I know my past experiences and traumas have shaped who I am now. They are always with me and that is the same for my characters. One of mine witnessed terrible trauma and loss when she was young and now has abandonment issues. She is filled with so much anger and she doesn’t know why because she hasn’t forgotten much of her past.

I have five main protagonists of my book and I have to make sure their voices all sound different. They are from different parts of the world. They are different species and have different cultures of their own. One thing I’ve done to understand their voice is to have them react to the same piece of information. I might write down their reactions or I might use verbal responses. Just a fancy way of saying I talk to myself. But it has helped me. The tone of their responses were all different and unique to their character.

Another thing I have done is to listen to the type of music the characters like, which is hard because we do not have similar tastes. One of mine likes Motley Crue, while another likes old school hip hop.  It’s easy for me to write a textbook history with no feeling in it. But to really put myself in their shoes is the real challenge.  The y aren’t real in the sense that we are but they have their own version of realness to me. I have spent the last 5 years with these characters and while I still do not know them as much I should.

Sometimes I imagine them sitting in my car on my way to work. I imagine them telling me about their day, their hopes their dreams. Sometimes when I go to new places or even old ones I imagine I am one of my characters. I not only see things through new eyes but I imagine how they would act and carry themselves. I have begun to ask myself what Ariadne and Atlanta would do in situations.

I have made a family tree using Family Echo which helps add a touch of realism to the characters. It’s the little things like this that have helped me add flesh to the foundation of my characters. What about you? What techniques do you use that help you get to know your characters?

I am sorry the blog posts have been so sporadic but I am trying to do better. I do have a laptop again so I won’t have to type posts on my phone anymore. Have a good week everyone.

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