jordanrosenfeld

Give Them Heart

In Craft, General, Musings on May 12, 2010 at 9:28 pm

I’ve written about building believable characters before, and there are hundreds of great articles and books who’ve gone before me that do it in eloquent ways. But today, as I formulate a critique, these are the words that came to me about character:

You can learn how to write great dialogue, give your character a snappy voice, and follow a character arc through a transformation. But beneath all of that, and really in order for all that to be true, your characters must have heart. Heart so real you believe them. What do I mean? They must, at some point in your writing journey, morph from paper creations to real people. You must see them as real. You must find yourself wondering what they might do in situations. Notice clothes in a store that would look good on them–or that they might covet, being unable to afford them. Your characters have to become alive to you so they can become alive to readers.

And the only way I’ve found to do this is multiple drafts and lots of reader feedback. As well as keeping notebooks in which you write down things about them.

In fact, try this on: Try writing a journal, for as few days as a week, or as long as you’re writing your book, in your character’s voice about his or her life. See how this process takes you deeper into your characters until they are so alive you can hear their hearts beating at night, just beneath your own.

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  1. I agree completely. Some authors actually blog as their series characters. (Which works better for some genres than others, obviously). Personally, while I’m in the middle of a story, I find it helpful to take a step back and write first-person “confessionals” from the characters — especially the antagonist. That solidifies their personalities and motivations for me every time.

  2. These are both great tips about strengthening one’s characters – which I will use with my own futuristic thriller underway.

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