Research your characters. You can do character research anywhere, anytime. At a coffee shop, in the grocery store, having your tires changed, right at your own dinner table. There are always interesting characters if I just look at people as an observer. Ask yourself questions about the interactions you see others having. Questions like, ‘Why is that mother yelling at her child in the grocery store? What would cause her to lose her temper today?’ Or, ‘Why does that mechanic need to chew a toothpick and talk at the same time?’ Answer those questions with your imagination. You have begun to develop your character(s).
Give Your Character a Life. Decide the job or career your character has or doesn’t have. Are they a psychologist? A stay-at-home mom/dad? Homeless? A self-proclaimed hermit?
Get to Know Your Main Characters. For my main character in the Alaska Iconoclast series, Kat Tovslosky, I created her life from the time she was born to the present. I developed her personality from her life experiences. I asked questions like, ‘Did Kat come from a wholesome, loving family or a dysfunctional one?’ ‘What does Kat like to eat and why?’ ‘Where did she grow up – who/what influenced her character the most?’ These are just a few of the questions I asked about her.
I will note here that I may not ever put Kat’s, or any character’s, entire background into the stories. Yet, when Kat acts a certain way, it comes from who she is. In Gorgon I originally had Kat cowering in a corner when she was attacked by an invisible foe. I read that scene and knew something was wrong. It took a bit but I realized Kat NEVER cowers. She’s a fighter. I changed the scene. Without developing her character, I would not have been able to pinpoint the problem not fix the scene.
Welcome Unexpected Characters. I do not develop all my characters as deeply as I did Kat. Still, I do develop the characters I know are a part of the book. I say ‘I develop the ones I know are a part of the book’ because one or two characters have popped up while I’m writing. Those are the delights of writing. Grandma Bricken is one such character. I did not have her planned in the original book series. Yet, she developed herself, in a way, and has become one of the most loved characters in the Iconoclast series.
I encourage you to take the time to ask the questions and develop a person – one that has faults and assets. One that is so human people relate to that character and want to know more about their life. A character people can laugh with, cry with, and root onto victory. You will enjoy it. More importantly, your readers will enjoy it and will pick up your next book because they related to your character and his/her story.
Until next time,