Monday, July 27, 2015

My Characters!

Wow!  What a day!  It feels great to finally be back in business after a bout with some kind of killer germ.

I don't want to venture into TMI territory, but suffice it to say, the only time on Saturday I was out of bed was when I was in the bathroom.  Be glad I say no more.

For this blog post I really want to get started introducing characters and getting you guys excited as well.   But on the advice of DW, alas, I cannot.

The fear being that some random fiend on the interwebs may happen by and pilfer the character right out from under my nose.  What's the likelihood of that?  Meh.  Hard to say.

But then, what's the likelihood somebody's going to be walking though the neighborhood testing front door knobs and find yours unlocked?  Probably pretty slim, but the cost of prevention is so simple that any chance at all wouldn't be worth it.

The thing is, characters are so easy to create, there's really no sense in stealing them from somebody anyway.  And I don't just mean cookie-cutter Scooby Doo villains either.  Good ones.

So that's what I decided to talk about instead.  How to create a good character.

My process is pretty simple.  I just look around at people I know and have met.  Then take some key trait that makes them interesting (so in a way I guess I do kind of steal characters) and then I play with it and let it run amok.

I can say that nearly all of my characters in the book started out as one or more people I actually knew in real life.  Soon, as I emphasized some things, tweaked others, and so on, they eventually took on a personality of their own however.

For example, one young heroine, I'll call her M, started out as a quirky little individual from a contract job I had once.  Unlike the sources of the other characters, she wasn't a close friend, so I went ahead and invented my own ideas about why she might act the way she does.  Then I juxtaposed her with something completely opposite, and came up with her unexpected role on the team.

That's another great tip, by the way.  Especially in over-the-top stories like the ones I'm writing.  Take everything you'd expect a character to be, and flip it on its head.  For instance, a jock who acts like a dumb ox.  Lame.  Predictable.  Pointless.   How about instead a nerd with superhuman strength or a linebacker who dabbles in quantum string theory.  That's more interesting.  Maybe in your story it would be more subtle than that, but shake things up!

Finally, probably the biggest thing is to give your character a story.  Where are they from?  How were they raised?  That sort of thing.  Just like every Christian has a testimony, every character needs to have come from somewhere.

Once again, mine all have pretty uncanny pasts.  But the thing is, after starting with a duplicate of somebody I know, and then giving them a different background, they all of a sudden become something else entirely.

One character, W, was based loosely on a real friend named Ken who was part of a mens' accountability group I was in.  Anyway, he has this wild, happy-go-lucky attitude.  But as soon as I gave him a backstory as an orphan, not only does he get a natural tie into the Bible Study (you'll see why in later books), but all of a sudden, there's both this inner pain and also this mask he wears to interact with the world.  Very rich character!

In fact, now that I think about it, there are a lot of masks and inner turmoil going on in the group.  But then, that's what makes them human, right?  I mean, which one of us doesn't have baggage?

(Er... I hope it's not just me, here!)

 That is probably my final tip though.  I do put a little of me in every character.  Even the villains.  When W makes wisecracks, that's my facetious side talking.  When M has insecurities, there are my insecurities hiding behind her shy words.  When P goes off and hides in his secret lab, those are my antisocial tendencies showing up. 

The reason why is, I can write that.  I know what they would say or how they would react, because it's how I would react.

I'll never write an ambitious 50y/o Mary Kay saleswoman or a daredevil character bungee jumping off the Eiffel Tower for the thrill of it, because frankly, I don't get it.  Emotionally, I mean.  I just don't understand what drives them.

I write people I know, with backgrounds I know, and emotions I know.

That's the team you're going to be able to read about in a few short months!

I hope you're at least a little excited? :}


Live YOUR adventure!
-E.L. Fletcher