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