A guest post by Suzanna J. Linton
Your next great character may be sitting beside you on the bus.
No, really! Writers often wrack their skulls for ideas about how to write an interesting, memorable character. However, we meet people every day who are fodder for new characters. And it can be done without being too “autobiographical.”
Stories are not born in a vacuum. They are informed by our personal philosophies, our desires, and our own experiences. For example, my idea for Willows of Fate came partially from my experience as a teen of daydreaming so much that it was almost as if I could physically see what I imagined. It makes sense, then, that our characters should also be drawn from sources of inspiration around and within us.
Step One: Pay Attention
In my various jobs over the years, I’ve met adulterers, optimists, conspiracy theorists, and control freaks. I’ve worked for people who were up to less than legitimate business and for people who wouldn’t know how to break a rule even if you gave them instructions.
I’ve eaten lunch with Goths and gone to church with people really into body art. I’ve bought gelato from a New Zealander and rode on a Greyhound bus with a British man who was backpacking across America.
How did I meet all of these people? Not by taking a trip to exotic locales, certainly. I paid attention. By being aware of the world around us, we can pick up on the fascinating character traits of those we pass or meet every day. It also helps us to learn about human nature. We can’t write about real people if we don’t know how real people work. And we can’t learn how real people work if we don’t pay attention to what is happening around or to us.
Step Two: Write a History
Everyone comes from somewhere and our origins affect our current behavior and situation. Therefore, writing a history of a character helps us to ground that character into the reality of human nature. The reader, though, doesn’t need to know all of that character’s history. What we’ve written is mostly for our benefit.
Be sure to list who the character’s parents are, any important events in childhood and adulthood, hobbies, likes and dislikes, and if the character has any hopes or dreams. Hopes, dreams, and desires are the most important because everyone wants something. Knowing what your character wants goes a long way in making that character more human and real.
Step Three: Don’t Forget Humor
Some people have a very funny, playful sense of humor. My husband teases and plays with the best of them.
Some people don’t seem to have any sense of humor at all or it’s very dry. I know plenty of Americans who think the British don’t have a sense of humor because it can be so dry.
My point is, there is humor in some form (and there are more forms than what I’ve listed) either in circumstances or coming from those around us. By deciding what sort of sense of humor a certain person has, you give a whole new layer to your character.
For example, in my novel Willows of Fate, one of my characters, Anselm, is a snarky and sarcastic pain in the rear. Some of the funniest lines in the novel come from him. For many of my reviewers, he’s also their favorite character. I was able to write him because I’ve met so many sarcastic, snarky pains in the rear! (And I can be one, too.)
Writing great characters can be done and it’s easier than you think. You don’t have to reproduce other people on paper. By taking bits and pieces from your experience and following these three simple steps, making a unique character is a simple matter. And the starting place is paying attention the next time you ride on the bus.
About the Author
Suzanna Linton has spent most of her life living in the middle of nowhere, where the only entertainment was books and her own imagination. It’s hardly surprising she began writing stories and poems as soon as she could write. She went to Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina and majored in Professional Writing. After graduating, she was a technical writer just long enough to know she didn’t like it. A few jobs later, she took a job at her local library and met an IT guy she liked so much, she married him. Suzanna now writes full time and continues to live in Florence with her husband and their two dogs, cat, and Betta fish.
About Her Book
All her life, Desdemona has seen things others haven’t. Dragons, knights, dwarves, kids with three eyes. Heeding her mother’s advice, she keeps silent about this and struggles through life, pretending everything is normal.
At her mother’s death, Desdemona returns to a home haunted with memories but she is determined to not be shaken from what little normalcy she has. However, when her brother is murdered and she uncovers a family secret, Desdemona realizes that there is more to what she sees. Perhaps a whole other world, one that’s willing to kill to have her as its own.