Sunday, September 5, 2010

My Eye Twitches

Photograph by Istolethetv.
Putting a character together, for me, is one of the best and most trying aspects of writing. Layering personality, quirks, mannerisms, and finally description can be both fascinating and frustrating. Part of the fun for me is the people watching.

For neighbor always, ALWAYS, puts his briefcase on his car hood and checks it before leaving for work. My friend still covers her brilliant smile when she laughs because somehow, the horror of braces still skirts around in her psyche from time to time. Especially when talking to men.

I'm no different. My deaf friends almost never look at my eyes when we're talking...they lip read and watch my hands exclusively.  They can tell if I'm sad before the tears get to my eyes because they say its in the way my shoulders slump, or my hands shake, and mouth looks tight. My eye twitches when I'm stressed. My laugh can be heard upstairs through least my kids say so.

People are more than their descriptions. They are energy and sound and movement. They wear their hair long or short for a reason. They stand close to or far from people by design. The image they project to others and the way they move can tell a lot about their internal workings whether intentional or not. 

The book I am working on now, at least in the outline phase, has a main character who is deeply flawed. She's not your typical heroine...she's not really all that sympathetic in the beginning of my story. She's suffered a lot at the hands of others and therefore has a 'watching out for number one' type of attitude. She's not nice.

The thing is, I know what her voice sounds like when its laced with sarcasm. I know that she rubs her elbow when she's scared because an angry adult once broke it when she was little.  I know she hates that her lip trembles when she cries because she thinks it makes her look weak. She is striking, but not beautiful, and therefore doesn't like women who trade on their looks...not because she finds it demeaning, but because she doesn't have that luxury.  She guffaws, instead of laughs.

These are all things that do not describe what she looks like. That always comes last for me when I develop a character. The looks, the mannerisms, the personality...they all give birth to the appearance.

My question to you is do you conjure your characters? Are they based on people you know? Do you use pictures of actors for inspiration? What makes them come alive for you?

Until next time...Go write!