Hello Dear Friends! Yes, it's been a while, but I'm back and ready to attack! And with what? You guessed it - more writing tips from yours truly. When you look back on your favorite movies, TV series, or books there is always one common theme that always rides your heartstrings, pulls you back to tune in each week, or causes you to binge an entire season in one sitting - THE CHARACTERS! They are the ones we love, the ones we hate, the ones we relate to, the hooligans that make us laugh, smile, and cry our ugliest tears. Those that give us the urge to throw stale marshmallows at for their stupid decisions and at times the ones we wish we were dating. So, when you're writing something that you want others to enjoy, the first step is creating your characters and making them as compelling and as memorable as you possibly can. And the biggest thing to remember is that you're not having fun writing them, they're not going to be any fun for the person watching or reading about them. My point being - HAVE FUN! Let's take a gander below, shall we?
PEOPLE WATCH ON THE DAILY - TAKE NOTES
I mentioned this before in my tips for writers! Keep your eyes peeled for inspiring people - and what I mean by this - people who look especially interesting and are up to rather intriguing things. For example, one time I saw a man with checkered overalls roller-skating through DTLA with a boombox at his hip, and another time I met a woman at Starbucks creating figurines with paperclips and her name as Amerilia - which I thought was pretty unique. Humans like these stay in your head forever - just like the characters you create will if you base them off of people like this. It also doesn't hurt to ask these fine folk their life story as well - you just might find yourself swimming in gold.
CREATE THE MOST MEMORABLE NAMES
Not many people are going to remember basic names, though of course it's been done. Even then, there is always a ring to it that turns people's heads. Jon Snow (You know nothing!), Don Draper, Veronica Lodge, Stephen Strange, Tony Stark, Wendy Peffercorn, Harry Potter - the list goes on and on. Depending on what your character's backstory is, where they're from, what kind of family they descend from, their personality, their social status, etc., it'll behoove you to visit baby name sites, look up last names based off of ancestry or religion, and/or make up your own names and spellings. Also, looking into what these names mean will give your character more depth and moral to build their stories upon.
START WITH AN IN-DEPTH BACKSTORY
This is necessary and should always be your first step - after you choose a name of course. You should know where your character is from (city, county, state, country, EVERYTHING), Where they live, what their nationality is, who their parents were, what their childhood was like - what made them into who they are today? How did they find their passion? What hurt them the most? What is the reason that they are the way are? Think of everything that made you who you are today and implement each of those questions and cases into your character. Go in depth. Know who your character is inside and out.
DRAW THEM OR FIND PHOTOS THAT DEPICT THEM
Drawing the characters you create gives you a better sense of who they are. They are easier to imagine when you are writing and ultimately strengthens the process. This also makes them more of a friend to you - more tangible and will bring them to life - both in your mind and in your writing. Having them portrayed in a definite way while you're writing makes interactions, scenarios, personal moments, and thought processes of this character more distinct. Plus - it gives them a standpoint to evolve from later down the line.
GIVE THEM UNIQUE JOBS (OR ASPIRATIONS)
One character of mine was a live mannequin, another a falconer ( one who sends the falcons to and from castles in the middle ages), and one an art therapist. There are so many fun and crazy jobs out there that make your character more memorable and can also add some flair to your plot in the long run. If you Google "craziest jobs in the world," or something of the sort, I'm sure you will find occupations that you were never aware of - some even beyond your wildest imagination. It's fun! And hey, if writing doesn't work out, at least you have a series of new options to choose from. Anywho - your characters need passions that drive them. They need something that gets them up in the morning, something they yearn for - something to keep them striving towards something bigger - just like you with your dreams.
UNIQUE HOBBIES, LIKES, DISLIKES...ETC.
Do they love playing doubles in badminton, but hate the way the word penguin is pronounced? Does the smell of laundry and the sound of opening a new bottle of apple juice give them butterflies inside? What do they love? What do they hate? What are they attracted to? What disgusts them? Anything that can relate to their heart and their makeup emotionally that gives them a flare of personality, which brings me to...
HOW DO THEY TALK, WALK, THINK, REACT, FLIRT...ETC.
Get into their brain! Their motor functions! Their Psychology! If someone left them an angry note on their windshield for parking too close, how would they react? If someone called them out in person, what would they do? Do they have a gimp in their step? Do they slouch their shoulders? Do they walk like they're on the catwalk daily? What are their physicalities and how do they present themselves? On top of that? What is their type? Do they like guys with thick eyebrows, or girls with blue eyes and freckles? Are they straight? Gay? Lesbian? Transgendered? Are they still waiting to come out? Or do they not know what line they stand on? You have to know all of these things in writing dialogue and scene work in order to make your story and characters as strong as they possibly can be. Of course, you will get to know your characters as time goes on, and things will happen in your stories to change these things about them, but starting off - you're with them 100% of the way.
They Need a secret
You have a secret. Or several. I have secrets that I haven't shared. Everyone has a secret - whether it be tiny or HUGE, but either way, there's always something we would rather the world not know. Your character needs one of those babies. This will give them something that your audience doesn't know, your character's friends don't know (maybe one does - but spills the beans), and maybe their family doesn't even know. We need mystery and we did to keep those around your character guessing. If they know your character inside and out right away - your character is weak. We can't have weak characters.
WRITE THEM SCENES INTERACTING WITH PEOPLE
While you're developing your character, write them into scenes where they're interacting with their crush, or their dad, their best friend, their enemy, or a stranger. Play with how they hold themselves and find their voice in the dialogue you write for them, or the the thoughts you have them thinking. This is important and crucial for you getting to know your character, just as you would someone new in real life.
GIVE THEM SCENARIOS THEY HAVE TO PLAY THROUGH
This is again great practice for discovering how your character thinks and reacts to situations. Maybe you have them get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere at midnight, or have their boyfriend cheat on them with your mom! Who knows!? Also simple things like getting a D on a test that meant a lot to your character, or getting on the Track team. Giving your character good, bad, confusing, and depressing situations to work with with bring out things you may have not even known about your character...that you will after doing this exercise.
THEY ARE PEOPLE TOO - GIVE THEM FEELINGS
You can't just have them be hot or cold, yes or no, in or out, up or down like the esteemed words of Katy Perry. You have to give them indecisiveness, reasons behind their emotions. There are more to choose from compared to happy, sad, being in love, angry or scared. There is confused, dazed, infatuated, hostile, agitated, hesitant, etc. Your character should always feel a certain way about what's going on in the current scene or based off of what another character is saying. If they are just even keeled all of the time, the progression of your story will have no flavor and nor will your characters. Always bring these things back to you and those you know - relatability is key. How do you react to certain things?
HAVE FUN WITH THEM - THEY'RE YOUR FRIENDS
Like I said, if you're not having fun writing these guys, no one is going to have fun going on their journey with them. These characters are your buds, your enemies, your loved ones and are a way to connect to something if reality isn't always looking too great in the friend department. They trust you and you trust them, so might as well create a world where you guys can have a ball and then when all is said and done, bring the world on this fabulous adventure you and your characters have created.
Catch you Friday!!
Mary Gabrielle Strause
P.S.: Here is a small cover I did of Chelsea Hotel No. 2 if you want to listen!