Exploring the Vulnerability of Characters
|Thanks to Pixabay for the image!|
Getting to know the characters we write is crucial in creating a credible and believable story We need well-rounded people whose voices are clear and consistent. There are heaps of ‘how to’ books out there – some more intellectual than others (I’ve probably read most of them over the years).
When formulating my characters, I start with the basics, which you can read about here from the Writers Workshop (a great ‘normal speak’ article) and then I like to go deeper and have some real fun. I love to explore their vulnerabilities. Here are 5 things I’ve done in the past to get a deeper understanding of the people in my stories.
- Drop them into a situation way out of their comfort zone and see how they cope – Eg: How would Jack Reacher cope as a trainee cook in Hell’s Kitchen with Gordon Ramsey?
- An interview with Oprah – what would be revealed? Would they jump on the couch like Tom Cruise or really open their hearts to reveal something that’s been hidden for decades.
- Put them face to face with one of their fears – a room filled with spiders, lock them in a confined space, make them look over the edge of the tallest building. Do they conquer their fear or wither into despair?
- Take away their vice: cigarettes, alcohol, chocolate, etc – what emotions do they experience? What do they do instead of smoking, drinking, eating? Do their lives become more fulfilled or do they give up and revert to old habits?
- Book them on a parabolic flight (Zero-G). Would they actually turn up at the airfield? How would they feel on the way up? Would they throw up on the way down? Would they want to do it again? What fun! (And because it’s make believe, it doesn’t cost a cent.)
There are so many ways to really get to know your characters. Without doing the basics before you start writing your novel, many inconsistencies will show up – and the editor (or worse, the reader) will pick up on every one of them. So my advice: do the legwork and build your characters so that they stand up, fully formed. But most importantly, never forget to have fun!
What do you do to get to know your characters?
Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!