In a quest to create something that is entertaining in written form, the characters that drive a plot need to be engaging with the audience. Perhaps it is a common trait shared or a familiar way of thinking and solving the problems. The character becomes the window into the storyteller’s mind as the tale is told. This becomes the voice of the writer as the story moves along. It may not be a first person voice all the time, but the narrative does unfold around this particular character. Instinctively, the author dips into this pool and allows the character choose the path that each takes. Strong characters will become fascinatingly independent. However, here is the question: what elements must be addressed in order to make this possible? How does an author make a character?
As with any new skill or self-taught talent, turning to information on techniques is the first step. The numerous sources of information on the Internet can provide a vast pool to choose from. One of the common techniques is to create the traits of the character with a questionnaire. Favorite color and hobbies might be included, but the focus is on the personal features and simple background. This particular aid helped with the very simple foundation of the character.
Building on this, the construction of the character moves to a stage where the simple traits are fleshed out with a few descriptions of the personality and a little history. This is a framework to enhance with further details of the background history for the character. Perhaps the veteran cop grew up in a rough neighborhood and had some friends who ended up on the other side of the law. The torn loyalties to his old friends and his duty as a law officer can play upon his life. The stretch of the features can create a vast range of emotions and personality reactions.
Once the structure begins to take on the weight of a fleshed-out history, it is time to test the waters with this newly minted character and his personality in a few short paragraphs with a small obstacle to test him. The thinking of the character is governed by his past and his present. Soon, he is creating a future without the author actually knowing what will happen next. A curious energy will take over the character if the story is good enough. Nothing fulfills the character’s existence more than the challenges and struggles. Finding success in lieu of these gives the character life.
This brings the character element to the story framework and readies for the plot. Now most techniques involve what is called a character sketch which can help this process from the beginning, but I believe that should be the last piece. With the traits set, the history constructed, and the personality formed, the character sketch is a technique similar to the short story test, but it is mainly a reflection of the character at the start of the larger story. It is the jump-off point for the fiction and frames all the elements in a few pages.
As an author sits to begin, the techniques are varied, but the results come from the correct elements. It is not always the course for every writer and it would be interesting to listen to the different ways that authors create. For the moment, these techniques will have to work to produce the proper cast for the story. What does matter is that characters find a story and the plot evolves into a life of its own.
The exercise of writing has become a daily habit after the last few months. It is a wonderful exercise of muscles that have been atrophied in the recent years. I feel that I have grown and sharpened. It is not perfect and likely will never be, but my greatest critic is pushing me to be as close as possible.
With this thought, I have made a few ventures into fiction because of my burning need to express myself in storytelling. I have explored the different techniques, touched on a few do-it-yourself manuals, and touched base with a few local authors. I think that it has trained me to look at my writing in a different way. I find myself actually editing it without realizing it.
So, this has brought me to a few thoughts about how to proceed. I have put some of it on the back burner for the moment. I can recharge on one project and turn to another line to work on it for a while. In this method, I have found that several stories are appearing, but none are finished.
This is a curious matter that I feel is a benefit. When the time passes, I will actually have many options to complete the stories. I have set the tracks down and prepare the way for the rest of the words. As I do, I stepped back to examine some of the techniques that have worked.
One of the crucial steps that I am using that I have never tried before is the character sketch. Usually, I have the character mapped out in my head and I don’t need the sketch. However, I found that with short stories that the sketches can be used for supporting character; while in a novel style the characters need some form of a sketch as I switch between the main characters and minor characters.
With such a technique, it has me turning my thoughts to the character quirks, traits, and personality of other people in my life. It is not a critique of them, but a simple evaluation of them in this basic form. In this, I discovered that some very curious stories come into view. It is from this than I can mine some of the traits for my stories. I understand human nature a little better.
This weekend helped me to understand and quantify this as my children helped me celebrate Father’s Day. Each of my three children brings into my life a variety of character qualities and I see how they have developed. It was a wonderful time. Now, I will be back to my regular blog posting.