Happy Sunday, to you all, Katy Lee here. We were so honored this week to have NYT Bestselling Author, Lynn Kurland visit the Scribes. If you missed her posts, click here and here. But do come back after!
Something Lynn said that made me snicker was about one of her techniques in creating characters. She said, “I’ve also been very blessed with wonderful, witty friends, delightfully awful former boyfriends, and plenty of kooky people crossing my path. They all become grist for the mill.”
I laughed because of how openly she admits to using characteristics from real-life people she knows. I, myself, worry my family and friends will see themselves in my books and not take too kindly to it, so I tend to mix a few characteristics up to be sure they don’t.
Regardless of whether you are inspired by real people or not, your characters still need to come alive on the page. The key to doing this is not by listing all their characteristics like a police report, but by showing certain actions that give a real visual to your reader. For example, instead of saying someone is very tall, note how they have to duck their head to walk through a doorway.
In the past, I have had some trouble with some characters and readers have said to me, “I don’t know what this person looks like, or you need more description about this person because I can’t see them in my mind.”
Nine times out of ten, it is because I, myself, don’t really know the character, and I’m finding it hard to describe them. I don’t know if their eye twitches or if they rub a bristly jaw. I don’t know if they hold back smiles or let them fly. I don’t know if they cross their arms to cut off the world or embrace life openly. And the reader won’t know these things until I spend time getting to know the character.
The Unlocked Secret: I’m with Lynn when I say observing people is a great way to create characters for your stories. Some of the things I’ve seen people do are so weird I know I could never make those things up on my own. Like a certain person I know, and I won’t name names here, but they do this weird thing when he– I mean they– turn the page of a book. They wet their finger and make a slurping sound that literally has me cringing from across the room. Yuck. But, seriously, even when you’re not trying to gross your reader out, you still want your book to play like a movie, where every person comes alive with motion and feeling. Just be sure to mix the traits up a bit so your friends don’t know you’re watching their every move…and taking notes.
Question: Where do you get your ideas for characters? Do you use actors, models, friends and family?