Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Who's that Guy?

Sarah. John. Michael. Rick. David. Karen. Emily. Nancy. Bill. Bob.

What do the words above have in common? It's an easy don't have to be a super English nerd and genius in order to answer the simple question. But I won't make you sweat anymore longer and freak out about a simple question that perhaps has caused you to grow anxious. They are all names. Proper nouns. That is the correct answer if you're like me, a crazy-nutty-English-freaky-nerd. But I'm not looking for THAT answer. The answer I'm looking for is, names. The above words are all names. They belong to someone, someone holds that name. 

Okay, so in writing you would call this person a character. Aha! We have reached my most favorite part of all writing. I know that I have caught myself saying this more than once, "Oh I like this aspect of writing! No, dialogue is better. But oh wait...ah, setting is the most fun!" I think ever true writer has their moments of going crazy about a certain something and for me it's characters. I love building my characters. I can sit for hours and just think about one character in particular and describe her from top to bottom. I can tell you exactly what her dislikes are, what irritates her, what's her style like, how does she talk, the way she socializes, her favorite color, what she loves to eat, her peeves, and on and on I go. Eventually I have this perfect picture of my character in my mind and when I'm out and about I sometimes see her in the grocery store. Of course a light chuckle escapes my mouth because I can't believe she actually exists in the real world. You see, my characters come from my world. They live in my mind. When they cry I want to comfort them and make the situation better. There was a point where I was seriously depressed. I couldn't think clearly and felt despondent. Finally my friend asked me what was the matter. When I told her that I killed my favorite character in my past short story she looked at me as if I lost my mind. I believe I did. 

So characters. Dress you characters. Write a character sketch about this person. Perhaps it'll be 4 sentences or 4 pages. It can be short or long. But imagine your character(s) coming alive. Imagine that the two of you are going out for coffee. You don't know this person yet. So on your outing you'll ask every question you can think of in order to build a connection, a feeling. Believe me, this is fun stuff. Building characters is something I enjoy doing. I get the honor to name them. Okay, so sketch it on a piece of paper. The good qualities, the bad characteristics, his/her fashion style, does she take awhile to get ready in the morning, or is he one who stays in bed until the alarm clock rings for the fifth time? You don't have to mention these things in your manuscript, but for you to know while writing who your main character is or actually all of your characters are is very important. 

You don't have to stress out knowing each one of your characters in details. Perhaps all you'll know about the cab driver is: the big rimmed glasses rested on his nose and every time he spoke a hint of alcohol filled the air. That's just an example. But get to know your main characters. Build the connection. Feel connected. If you want to get to know someone you'll ask them. Have this inner-dialogue with your character. And soon you'll realize how enjoyable it really is. Writing is an art. It takes time and patience. The same goes with your characters. Design them along the way and eventually you'll learn that you start dreaming about them and they follow you everywhere. 

Let me tell you a past experience of mine. When I was attending a class in the fall there was a girl who sat behind me. She was tall, sporty, very attractive, blond hair and blue eye ordeal, having the appearance of a barbie doll. The first time I saw her, I laughed. I couldn't believe it. I told myself that this is Jenny, my protagonist in the story I had going on. She was snotty just like Jenny. I figured I was well connected with my characters at that point because I saw them even at school. 

It's not weird. It's actually amazing to have imaginable friends. Because when no one understands you, your characters will. Remember, you are the architect. Create stories that come to life with real characters. And when the descriptive part is all done, search a name book for the perfect name. Make sure the name fits the character and the time era you're in. 

Characters need to live in you! Because when a reader opens your book someday their first question might be, "Who's that guy?"