The best characters, whether heros or villains, are those you know intimately. So how do you get to know them? Different methods work for different people. Here are a few tricks that work for me and for other writers I know:
- Head to a public place and borrow character traits from the people you see.
- Journal from that character’s point of view.
- Tell the story from another character’s point of view. This is especially helpful for understanding your villain. After all, most villains think they’re doing the right thing.
- Fill out a “character questionaire.” Numerous are available on the web and in writing books (for ex., http://www.writingclasses.com/InformationPages/index.php/PageID/106) –or you can design your own.
- Take a particular scene and free write the character’s emotions in that scene. What is her reaction to events? Does the event trigger any memories? What are they?
- Sometimes it’s helpful to start with your knowledge of a real person (or, preferably, a few real people). Put together your character based on the characteristics, quirks, and speech patterns from your real-life observations and go from there.
- Act it out. Bring your whole body into the experience by donning a costume, a walk, or an attitude taken from your character. Walk down the street as your character (mentally, if you’re worried what the neighbors will think….) Journal about your insights.
How do you get to know your characters? I’d love to hear!