We all want to create memorable characters. The ones that jump off the page and become part of our reality. Sometimes we find it hard to find that character within us. We want them to be a certain way, but perhaps they are the complete opposite of who we are. Where do we go for that inspiration? There is a saying that “we should write what we know.” But our characters need to be diverse. We have different sides, but not so much that we can draw from, for each character. We need to find that reprehensible character. The villain. The person that is nowhere near who we are.
Take in your surroundings. We all know people that share in some aspects of the characters we are looking for. Maybe an ex you can use for inspiration for a relationship gone wrong. A family member that you only see during holidays that tell the best stories. Even our friends can give us some great inspiration for a character. We usually gravitate to those that are accepting of who we are, but some have opposing aspects to them that leads to a new dimension in a character.
Personality is not all we can take away from all this inspiration. Mannerisms are something we need to think about. How will the character act in an awkward situation? Will they wring their hands? Do they talk with their hands? I know I do. Burst into a joke? Dance? Are they social people? We don’t need all these little details for every single character unless, of course, we are writing an epic tale. The main characters surely need to have a three-dimensional feel. How they walk and even how they stand says a lot about the person.
So far, we have covered some areas to look at in a character and where to possibly find them. Personality and mannerisms are a great start. We can easily make up in our heads what they are to look like. We writers have a good imagination for that. But I have noticed in some of the books I have read, that the characters tend to sound the same. If there is a lot of dialogue, I sometimes can’t figure out who is talking unless they indicate whoever said something.
Each character, along with their perspective personalities, needs to sound different. I know I say things that some people don’t say regularly. That is what differentiates me from the next person. Besides my voice of course. Since our characters are working through the written word rather than an actual voice, we must develop their speech pattern. Do they have an accent? Do they speak with a flourish? Do they have a habit of using big words? Or perhaps they are simpler in their speech. When I am reading, I want Sean to sound different than John. I want Sean to be sophisticated, while John is more down-to-earth and to the point.
All these details can come from people around you. In my small circle, I am rather quiet and reserved. Even though that is not me all the time. My friends are a little louder and voice their opinions whether people like it or not. I might just keep quiet in the corner as I hate to stir the pot. All these differences can be worked into a character. Taking from reality gives these people in our writing breath. They are alive. Let your readers enjoy that relationship and become a part of their story.
When I first started to write and write in length, I used a lot of dialogue and it just sounded like me talking to myself. I have since used a character sketch format. I give them distinct personalities and begin to develop their voice. Even giving myself an example of dialogue within the sketch. If you haven’t checked out my programs to try out for writing, check it out here. Scrivener is an excellent program that helps your storyboard, format, and character sketch. You can have everything in one and refer to your notes at any time.
I hope this post has helped get some of your characters off the ground or moving forward after stalling out. We not only have to create a world for these characters to live in, but we also throw in some trials to put them through. All the while keeping them separate and unique. It can become overwhelming at times. Never let that stop you. Keep going and you will find the voices that go along with the amazing story you are creating.