"However great a man's natural talent may be, the art of writing cannot be learned all at once." Jean Jacques Rousseau
This week we’re going to learn about characterization. Characterization is basically getting to know your character like you would any friend that you have. Their thoughts, their likes and dislikes, maybe their skin color or eye color and lastly, a name. Yes your characters become some of your nearest and dearest friends. You spend mornings, noons and many nights with them so the least you should do is know them, intimately.
As an exercise, we ask for your character to tell us about you! What would they see your life as being? Are you a bored housewife living vicariously through your character, Lola. Or are you a busy stay at home mom who colors her world with the likes of Beth and Bob?
When you climb inside your characters head, and look out into the real world, what would they see? Is there life exciting compared to yours or are you more exciting than them. Oh goodness... you better make your character’s life more exciting than yours.
Can you imagine reading a book, and the character appears as a cardboard cutout; meaning, stiff, colorless, flat, no real connection to the reader? If that’s the case then for sure you’ve lost your reader. We have to give our readers more to sink their teeth into. They, as you well know, don’t pick up a book to be bored out of their skin. They pick it up so they can jump into a fantasy world alive with conflict, pain, struggle and hopefully a resolution.
Now I don’t pick up a book for the fantasy elements, I, personal preference here, like the reality elements. I like a character who could be me, or my sister or maybe my mother or brother. I like to see within characters elements of my real world. I like to see possible struggles that I went through and want to see how they get resolved in a book.
Keep in mind I’ve had a colorful life, maybe not to some, but daily, monthly, yearly struggles are my forte. So when I read a book I want the character to survive the unconscionable blood of the past. I want them to soar like no eagle has soared before. They need to take whatever obstacle is thrown at them and either overcome it, or die.
You’re going to lose the reader if your main character is a wimp and dies; also spells out a boring story. And trust me, you don’t need a voluptuous maiden to be a main character either, although everyone loves a good ‘Damsel in Distress’ novel, don’t they?
Get inside your characters head, know every mole, every pimple that has surfaced, every flaw on their skin, and everything that makes him or her tick on a daily basis. By allowing the character to interview you, you in return will be learning intricate aspects of them, without even knowing it. Try it, you might like it. :)