Friday, May 2, 2014

Character building, a rich vein of inspiration

This whole 'writing' thing has become a bit of an addiction in my world, not just the physical aspect of words on a page but also how I'm looking at, and listening to, the world. 

In my day to day employ I meet lots of very different people, all sorts of characters, religions, ethnic beliefs, colour, creed, shape, size, language, male, female, straight and gay, and probably some in between, a general snapshot of the population. Since I've taken to writing I seem to notice more idiosyncratic detail; be that a tick, a twitch, a phrase, a look, a comparison used, that sort of thing, and I make mental notes. In my mind I create characters, story's, but these minute little idiosyncrasies give the character a depth. It also helps me with keeping each character believable because I can always refer back to the 'source' if I'm stuck with describing a particular movement or response. These people really are a wealth of reference. 

So I suppose the way I build a character is to picture a human shape and size, and their job role in the story; or at least how they start out because I love the fact that my characters take on their own 'will'. I then inject character traits, personality and intent. I give them the extra layer, the quirks, something individual and personal that the reader will forever associate with that character. I tend to give very little detail about the face, or too much detail about the hair, I describe these in general terms because I want my readers to fill in the missing bits - by doing this they picture the characters as they want them to be which gives them an emotional tie, a bond, buying into the story.

I do try to take just 'bits' of people for my characters, I'm not trying to duplicate a real person but build one of my own that fits my story. I'm not suggesting that you should photograph lots of strangers, cut the pictures to form a montage, stuff like that, that's weird on a different level. But, if you're short of an idea for a character, look around your own environment for inspiration - it's all there!

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