Veronica Cline Barton
Finding Your Book Characters from Within—What (or Who) Will Inspire Your Next Character? Will
When I write, I find the character creation process one of the more fun, and sometimes frustrating, processes there is when developing a storyline. It’s a little like giving birth—your ideas take seed, develops as you add attributes, quirks, mannerisms, voice, behaviors…the list goes on and on. Developing a character is much more than a physical description, you need to add the unique descriptors that are going to make a character come alive, jumping off the page and into the readers mind.
So where do you get your character inspiration from? I’ve been lucky to have met many, many people while working and traveling. When I meet someone, there’s always a characteristic that keeps them in my memory— a laugh, a twinkle in their eye, how they shake your hand, how they walk, a sadness in their speech—there’s always something unique. I try and archive these traits, not the actual person per se. I want to use the traits I think will make my characters unique and vibrant, pulling out the best and worst traits and incorporating them into one. Every character has to have some flaws to make them believable, as no one is perfect.
How do you decide what makes a character good or evil? That’s a tough one for me. I don’t believe there are pure evil beings. I think people are shaped by their upbringing, their surroundings, and how they were taught to interact with others. I keep this in mind as I nurture my characters in development. What happened to this character as a child that makes them so shy and timid as an adult? Were they constantly criticized and humiliated, or bullied? What is going to trigger this character to break out of his or her shell? Once he or she breaks out, will they grow and blossom into the beautiful beings they always were, or will a darkness win, seeking a revenge for a long lost hurt?
How will your character react in a crisis? What causes one character to be brave and strong while another crumbles? Just like in real life, you never know who the heroes will be until adversity strikes. Someone striding around with a lot of bravado may in fact be the first person to run or hide, caring only for him or her self, doing nothing to help others. I’ve met plenty of these types—they talk a big game, but in the end, wither and fade. Bullies tend to be such a simple character to create, because they have no depth or soul, only cowardice. As a writer, I have to decide if the bullies get redeemed in the story, and if redeemed, determine the one or two attributes or events that will cause them to grow a soul. Unfortunately, not many bullies get saved, it takes true grit to grow a soul.
I love the characters who are funny, laugh, and are always there to pitch in. It’s fun to be around these characters—they keep you on your toes, never missing a beat. They are the characters that bring humor into dire situations—inspiring the hero or heroine to take action and save them from the bad guys or circumstances. They often ask the questions that lead to clues or uncovers a façade. I try and keep plenty of these characters in my hip pocket as I write. To me, they are the spice that perk up a story, flavoring it just right.
What happens when a ‘good’ character goes bad? Just like real life, there are always people that seem so nice, are do-gooders, always there to help—and just as you thought you knew them, the inexplicable happens. The good guy turns bad. These characters to me are the more complex ones to develop. You use your writer magic to create someone that appears to be a friend, a trusted colleague, a family member—and just when you start to bond with them as a reader—wham! These characters turn out to be the villain, the saboteur, the back stabber. These characters’ backstories should provide the clues as to who turns out to be friend or foe. Again, it may just be that one little happening that seems so innocuous, but in the end was a life game changer. Think about that the next time you give someone a smirk or ignore them…it could trigger a behavior you don’t want to experience!
I’ll keep collecting my bag of character attributes. You can bet that I’m noticing, and taking notes…a piece of you just might be a secret ingredient to my next character 🙂
Crowns and Kisses,
P.S. Happy Friday everyone! I’ll be watching…