Well, folks…I apologize for the delay. In late March, I was injured in the line of duty. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a full-time Corrections Officer. I wound up with a concussion and in a neck brace for a few weeks. Between medication and a head injury, needless to say I wasn’t in much shape to be doing any writing. Well, any coherent writing, that is.
Now that I’m on the mend (I’m still not a 100%, but I’m functional) I wanted to get back into the swing of things. One of my priorities was to get another blog entry up and running. For those of you who have waited patiently for my next installment, I say thank you. For those of you who just tuned in to my blog, I hope you enjoy what you read.
Since I’m back in black (black BDU’s in my case), I wanted to jump right into this with both feet. So, for this installment I thought I’d take on a subject that we all should consider carefully when we’re writing. And that’s Character building.
Characters are the backbone of your story. They are the vehicles that deliver the dialogue, guide the story and inspire us. Some characters we love and others we hate. The important thing is to make certain your readers are doing that in the right order. To help us accomplish that goal, it’s best to do your research when you create your characters.
Have you ever read the works of Carl Jung? Jung was a German Psychologist who brought us the framework by which all base personality types can be identified. These twelve Jungian Archetypes represent the aspects of human behavior. Characters (as well as personalities) tend to fit into one or more of these categories.
The real trick is to not base your characters on just one Archetype. To give your characters real depth, you want to create facets of personality which will be reflected by traits from more than one archetype. By understanding these archetypes, you can further understand your characters and what motivates them.
By creating characters with multi-faceted personalities, you breathe life into them. It makes them far more relatable and allows you to give them dynamic roles in your story. Anyone can create stereotypical characters that are boring and mundane. It takes a little more work to make them come to life for your readers.
The extra effort it takes to create them will pay off for you, in the long run. The little personality quirks that they have will show them to be more than just two-dimensional cardboard cutouts. Generic characters might be alright for minor characters or background personalities that will not be reoccurring, but your main characters need to shine.
Even the bad guys need more depth than just the “mustache twirling guy in the black hat.” Let your readers get a glimpse of what makes them tick…of the little things that motivate and inspire them. You’ll be glad that you did. It will make all the difference to your readers.
One little trick I do is create a character “bio” for your main characters. Nothing fancy, just little details like height, weight, eye color and weight. Then I decide are the right or left handed. Do they wear glasses? Are they married or single? What’s their favorite food? Favorite TV show?
I think you get the point. You can answer whatever questions are relevant to you and to your characters. Go into as much or as little detail as you need. It’s all up to you. After all, it’s your world and your characters. I usually do about a page of info on each character on plain notebook paper and refer back to it as I need.
This ensures not only continuity of personality from one chapter to the next; it also allows me to keep the characters fresh in my mind in sequels. If you’re planning on writing a series, continuity is going to be the key. Your readers will notice the slightest inconsistencies from book to book. So unless you’re going to re-read your book before you write the next one, I highly recommend taking good notes.
I guess the most important thing is to remember to have fun with it. Writing is your passion, or you wouldn’t want to learn more about it. It’s ok to be passionate about it. Savor every moment of the process. Giving life to well-developed, dynamic characters is one of the steps to making your work great.
I still work to perfect my craft, as you will too. Writing is something that gets better with practice and determination. No one can do it for you. Walk your path to publication with a smile. Every step of the way will be a learning experience. I know I learn something each time.
Writing is a gift we share with the world and each other. Our legacy to the world is the written word. It will be there long after we’re gone. Always remember this: writing is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the journey.