As writers, we are also creators. We invent places and people, situations and outcomes. We can make up a whole new world or just return to one we enjoy. Personally, I tend to never stray too far from my beloved water-side settings for most of my writings. For me, it’s both familiar and hollowed ground.
Today I was thinking about our characters. It would be pointless to argue they are not real. In our minds, since we live with them for months or years, they are as real as the people sitting next to us. But our characters sure are a needy bunch.
First we name them and make notes on their physical attributes. Tall, short, slender, fat, brown hair, red hair, blue eyes, moles, scars, crooked smirk, glasses, hearing aids; it all goes on our lists.
We also clothe them, knowing their style preferences and what they need to wear for work. We give them occupations and careers. We house them. Apartment, farmhouse, bark hut? I have one that lives on a boat. Why? Because I want to live on a boat.
We surround them with family, friends and co-workers. And we have to include a few arch rivals, or friend-emies. It seems we are frequently feeding them as well. We know what they like, what they hate, and their allergies. We even know their habits. Elbows on the table, uses a dainty napkin or slouches with a belly pat and big burp. Yep, those are our characters. And we love them.
We give them dreams to chase, fears to face and goals to reach for. And we have to provide them with hobbies and interests outside their work or the plot conflict. This occurred to me recently as a real life person was sharing their hobby with me. It was one I considered a little unusual and quite interesting, and great fodder for a future character.
Doing all this, noting it all where appropriate, gives us well-rounded, three-dimensional characters to provide depth and credence to our stories. And the more we know our people, the better we can portray them on the page, the more our readers will care about them. Or, in the case of the bad guys, at least be interested in them. guys.