My approaches to character (and writing) are unique to me, but I thought I’d share them because… well, you might be looking to try new things in your writing–and that is perfectly great. As a writer starting out, I find it important to figure out what works best for me.
I’ve tried ways of developing characters like diagrams, lists, writing backstories, references to people… and that’s great on paper. You need to have ultimate knowledge of your characters–their eccentricities, what kind of things do they like or hate, what they would do in certain situations….
To me, charting everything felt like homework. While it works wonders for others, I’ve found my own way to writing a character….
My approach to character involves acting.
Side note → my overall approach to writing is really just imagining the story as a movie and then writing down everything from my character’s perspective (1st person) or what the audience would see (3rd person), but that’s a post for another day.
As I might’ve mentioned before, acting is a passion of mine. My college minor is theatre. So far, I’ve taken a couple of acting classes, been in one stage production, and I’m currently in a student film (in-progress).
So here are some of the ways I’ve taken what I’ve learned as an actor and applied it to my writing.
- Get in your character’s shoes. When I write, I imagine that I—Saffron–am going to play this character. I will learn the dialogue, the blocking, the character. I treat it like it’s going to be a movie for me to write, direct, and star in (like Ben Stiller in Tropic Thunder).
Gender doesn’t matter to me while I write, as I’m thinking about personality, speech, movement… I write like I’m going to embody this character myself. This character needs to feel like he or she is going to walk around, eat, breathe, live just as much as I do. I need to convince myself this person has flaws, mannerisms, moods, goals, nightmares… that they are as human as I am.
This is considerably a personal approach, especially when I’m writing in 1st person (my favorite person). I’m working to get inside this character’s head. Why would they make these choices? Why would he/she react this way? Who is really important to them? What will they do next?
But what if acting isn’t your thing? That’s completely fine!
- Reading out loud helps. Especially the dialogue, which is my favorite part to write. I say the ‘lines’ out loud (or whisper, if people are in the house). I try to give the characters a ‘voice’ out here in the real world.
What would he/she sound like? Where’s the inflection in their speech? How loud or quiet are they? How fast or slow do they talk? Do your words roll right off your character’s tongue?
You ultimately decide how ‘natural’ your words sounds, but you’ll never know if you don’t hear it yourself. Your characters need to live off the page too. Understand that readers might “cast” your story as well, imagining an actor for your lead or supporting characters…. The story’s going to be in their hands.
- Keep notes. While I said earlier that diagrams, lists, and other scribbles don’t work for me, what I meant was that I can’t only stick to that (which is why I pace around my room and silently act out the scenes in my head (I’m pathetic–I already know)).
I try to keep fact sheets about my characters, something I can refer during my writing. Birthdays, family, education (class schedules, extracurricular activities), relationships, occupations, enemies/friends… I keep these on a separate document somewhere on my computer.
Character is usually one of the funnest parts of writing because you are creating a whole new person in a whole new world (a whole new wooooorld~… sorry). The reason I chose to write about character as opposed to plotting or whatever is because I love characters.
When I read something, watch something, even listen to something… what I’m thinking about is the character I’m reading about, watching, or listening to. I emotionally invest in characters–love them, hate them, laugh with them, and cry for them. It’s a roller coaster ride, but the characters are usually the reason why I’ll stick to to a franchise or series of books. I care about these people.
I understand there are readers who read for the plot, the language… which is nice and all, but it feels like they’re in love with the technique… the way a character has been created and developed. Which is not bad. That just means they’re very particular or they know exactly what they’re looking for in a work (which is maybe something I should be paying attention to).
My goal in writing is to have fun, and I will spend my time on the aspects of writing I enjoy. I’m not really writing this blog to educate. I just want to share my scribbles.
Thank you for your time.