Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How Are Fictional Characters Born?

Are you a people watcher?  If you're a writer, chances are your super-writer's radar pulsates wildly with a simple trip to the grocery store or the local shopping mall.  I love plopping myself in the midst of plain, ordinary folk.  But I find that it's the ones who aren't so plain nor ordinary who make for great story material. 

How are they dressed?  What's with the purple pants and orange vest?  Is that a toupee?  I wonder why she's limping.  How do they speak to their children or treat their dogs?  Is she really putting salt on her ice cream?  So much can be extracted from the details, and writers, of course are all about the details.

I'll never forget the day when a simple name introduced itself to my brain.  All I had was a name, but in that alone arose a full-on character.  I knew exactly who she was, what she looked like, how she spent her days, what was important to her, and how she would respond to any given situation.  I rushed to the computer eager to get it all on the screen.  With no regard to grammer, style, spelling, punctuation, whether marketable or not, I knew I just had to let go and let the words fly - that doesn't happen very often with me, so I figure, when it does, LET IT!

A completely new voice came through; one I didn't know I had! 

She'd  been brought up in the lap of southern hospitality, but clung to her exposure to a more refined, sophisticated lifestyle in England during the time when her late husband was employed there.  Somehow, a story emerged from my brand new character.  Her surroundings, her interests and her lifestyle all worked cohesively to make her believable to others instead of a little stick figure to be moved around through the pages.

A writer experiences each day with eyes wide open and ears alert to possibilities.  Anything is possible in a fictional world - where will your next character come from?

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