Thursday, September 4, 2014

Pulling Them Into Flesh


Whenever I am fleshing out a new lead in one of my books I always seem to go back to that childhood image of Han Solo frozen in Carbonite.  Inside that cold stone is a flesh and blood man struggling to emerge.

That is what your characters are in the throes of becoming real to you and eventually your reader. They alread exist...in your mind, as part of the world you're creating, ingrained in the words you type. You just have to dig them out. 

Ask yourself these things...

  • Can you 'see' them? Not the color of their hair or what they wear. I mean really SEE them. How do they walk...with a swagger, a limp, with measured movement? Why? What made them walk this world that way?
  • If you were to meet them, what would be their first words to you? How would you feel reaching to shake their hand or get into their car? Now make the reader feel that.
  • Define the qualities that make them the focus of your story. Are they brave, ruthless, selfless...or driven and cunning? Why would we follow them over the other characters? What makes them MORE?
  • Figure out your antagonist -- make them better or stronger or more capable of something than your lead. Make the adversary a true test for your hero.
  • You know how your lead begins the story...now imagine how they are at the end of the journey. How have they changed? See them in the midst of your story's climactic moment. Do they win? How? Write out what they do, think, and feel at that moment.  Now  you have a trajectory for them.
  • What is the ultimate cost for them in your story? Is it their life? What would happen to them if they didn't overcome what they face? Can you define it...and is it bad enough to motivate the reader to care?

Asking yourself these things will help you wrap your mind around the more abstract elements of your lead character.

For a concrete worksheet to add to your understanding, author Jody Hedlund has a great one on her author blog found here.

What about you? What are some writing hacks you've developed to flesh your hero out in your mind?


by +Raquel Byrnes 

5 comments:

Liz A. said...

I see people like to "cast" their books sometimes, and that sometimes helps me get a sense of who that character might be.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Great questions to ask yourself when writing your novel. I have conjured such a vibrant world in my head that my characters speak to me and I see the action as a movie in my head.

I hope you enjoy your new steampunk game. A friend told me that my latest book is actually Steampunk. I had to look it up on Google!! :-)

Raquel Byrnes said...

Liz - Oh, I love that! My crit partner does this for me when I read her work. Its so effective!

Roland - I've read your books...your characters are rich and layered. :) I'll let you know how I like the game.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I always ask what my protagonist's greatest fear is. I like your list especially about a first meeting.

Raquel Byrnes said...

Susan - Greatest fear...that is a great addition to the list. :)