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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Writing Real Characters: Pretend Your Character Has Been Taken Hostage

Some of the stories I like best have vivid, memorable characters:

Sookie Stackhouse - a small town southern barmaid who happens to read people's minds and date vampires

Elizabeth Bennet - a woman in a man's world who refuses to marry for money, likes long rambles in the woods and sarcastic skewering of self-important people, and has embarrassing parents and immature siblings

Harry Potter - an orphaned wizard boy who defeated The Dark Lord Voldemort before he could even walk

Mary Shannon - a federal marshal who's gambling-addicted father abandoned the family when she was a child

Sheldon Cooper - a theoretical physicist with OCD tendencies that border on the psychotic, a rabid love of comic books and a mother who believes Jesus saves

And I want to write characters people will care about. So I'm going to pretend they've been taken hostage. They have two minutes to make themselves human to the kidnapper so he won't blow their brains out.

So what would you tell someone to save your life, to make you a person to him or her? Not your job or level of education.

Maybe that you grew up in a small town and every summer went to the Tasty Freeze for frozen chocolate-covered bananas. You bite your nails when you're nervous. You have divorced parents who scarred you for life and you weigh 30 pounds too much. You are addicted to roller derby or European rugby. You are still afraid of the monsters in your closet and mainline sweet tea for breakfast.

Your dreams, hopes, fears and quirks are what make you an individual - a character. So once I figure those out, I might have a shot at writing a character worth reading about.