Every time I start to write a new story, there’s an initial period when I struggle to write naturally--especially when it comes to my characters. It happens without fail, even if I’ve sketched out character profiles to go along with the proposed plot line.
Like getting to know any new person in my life: it takes time.
To help with this process, I’ll first go on an internet search. I look for photos of people who are as close to the pictures I have in my head as possible. My search history will be filled with lists like: woman, auburn hair, green eyes/man, blonde, grey eyes… and so it goes on, until I find an image that I can use as a reference point.
After that, with image and profile to hand, I'll start writing... but have to think long and hard about every aspect of my characters, including their motivation and actions.
Until, that is, IT happens: that glorious moment when I’ve thought about my characters so much, suddenly, I know them. Their conversations and thoughts come easily, and are more fluid; I know how they’ll react, in whatever situation I put them in; what they’re ashamed of and the things that make them feel proud; their insecurities and their strengths. I know how they feel about their family and friends, their home, their job, and that other thing—whatever it is that makes them special enough for me to be writing about them in the first place.
In fact, not only do I know them well enough to write about them, I also find myself thinking of them at times when I’m not sitting at my computer or scribbling in one of my many, many, many notebooks. Perhaps someone will make a comment that sounds like something one of my characters would say, or I’ll see something that I know they would appreciate and find interesting. I even dream about them!
It’s as if the characters I’ve imagined have become real to me.
And I’ll be honest: the first time this ‘snap’ of total recognition happened, it came as a bit of a surprise. Until I realised that getting to know my characters, both inside and out, is an essential part of telling believable stories.
If I don’t believe in the characters I write, then how on earth is a reader going to? And if a reader can't 'see' and respond to a character, are they going to care what happens to them--enough to read on?
The answer is simple: No.
Which is why, today, when I got that ‘snap’ of recognition for my current set of characters—I felt like cheering!
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