Friday, September 17, 2010

The World is a Resource for Character Development

Hello All,
First and foremost, I want to thank everyone who participated in last week’s word count challenge. It was a tough commitment to make, but the reward was worth the effort. Our winner, Deniz Bevan is proof of this. She came in with a whopping seven-thousand words for the week. Great job Deniz.  Enjoy the chocolates and the book. You earned em.

Denise's dedication to the craft had a galvanizing affect on me.  After dedicating a  couple of months to developing my characters, I finally put the finishing touches on their bios.  As you all know, characters drive a story, so it's important to create individuals with poignant and unique personalities.  This can mean the difference between a character who has the charisma of a cardboard cutout, and one that is extraordinary and inspiring. 

Since I hoped to achieve the latter, I decided the best way to draw inspiration for characters was to study the behavior of others.  I scrutinized family members I admired, and those I disliked. I people- watched in malls, eavesdropped on conversations in restaurants, and made lab rats of my friends. 

I learned that a lot of material can be picked up from listening.  For example, I went to a nursery the other day to purchase some Knock Out Roses.  When I asked an employee where to find them, she pursed her lips and pointed dismissively toward the back of the building,

        "They're yonder, by the cherries." she said.

I had no clue where yonder was, so I discretely asked the cashier to direct me to the roses.

        She said,  "If we have any left, they'll be over there, behind the weeping cherries."

Although each person gave the same instructions, the difference in the responses told me a couple of things about them.  I'd hazzard to guess the first lady  was probably raised in a rural part of the state, and her education didn't extend beyond highschool.  In contrast, the cashier's accent was barely detectable. I deduced she was probably raised in a more urban environment. Now, imagine if they were characters in my novel.  The reader would immediately identify each individual by their distinct voices.  Needless to say, I had similar experiences with friends and family, but in the spirit of keeping the peace, I will refrain from providing more examples.(:

Interestingly, many of my characters turned out to be composites of people I know, and those I don't know. This experience caused me to wonder if I'm the only person who used the world as a resource to develop characters?  Yes, no, maybe so?  I’d be interested to know. Until next time, happy writing.