By: M.L. Gardner
You see your character for the first time. Chances are, he or she is standing across a foggy room or has their back to you. You can’t quite see the fine details. You know nothing of their personality. So you move closer. It is from their looks (true to life) that you make the first assumptions about their personality.
Elegantly styled dark hair. Piercing blue eyes. Hand on hip. Very high brow. So now you know a little more about them based on stereotypes. It’s somewhere to start.
Try to talk to them. Hearing their voice, you’ll be able to tweak the stereotype. Maybe this character was born into a wealthy family and uses her money and power to end animal cruelty. Or she’s new to money and trying overly hard to act the part. Or maybe she’s wealthy by her own right and every bit the wicked witch. Why? What happened to her? Dig deeper past the first impression. The layers of personality may surprise you.
Now it’s time to play. Put them in a scene and see what they’ll do. See what they’ll tolerate. Push the limits and see where they draw the line. I promise, they’ll let you know. If you try to guide them in a direction they don’t want, either the writing will be flat and unbelievable or they will go on strike and leave you staring at a blank page.
I have always maintained that writer’s block is nothing but the author being stubborn, refusing to let the characters lead because he/she knows the story must go this way. It’s in the outline, darn it!
Guess what, pumpkin? Maybe your outline is wrong. Maybe, just maybe, the characters you birthed and named and groomed have grown up and know better than you.
If you get stuck, get out of the driver's seat. You don’t belong there in the first place. Your block should resolve quickly if you are in the backseat and go along for the ride.
I firmly believe creating a believable character is first creating and then listening.
So you’ve created a character and your ears are wide open. Now what?
Characters who feel real to a reader is what you’re striving for.
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