Bringing Characters to Life

In my opinion, it isn’t just a tuned plot that makes a book great, but the characters who travel through this world. The characters who laugh and cry and fall in love and have their hearts broken. It’s the characters who lead us through the story, who teach us new things about ourselves as readers and/or writers.

I love every aspect of writing with each fragment of my heart, though I must admit, creating my characters have been the most joyful and life-changing experiences for me. I have placed so much time into each of my characters–even the side characters who don’t receive as much time on paper–that I probably know them better than myself. It’s amazing the things they have taught me through their ups and downs–even my villains. I thank my bounds of energy spent behind building my characters for this power they have over me.

I am, by all means, no professional. No one is, really. We’re always learning and growing, but I thought it may be helpful to share my process of building and learning my characters.

1. MAKE A PLAYLIST

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I don’t necessarily create a playlist for certain characters–you could do this, though–but I instead form a list of songs for each book. Within these playlists, there are certain songs that remind me of specific characters. The deep lyrics or emotional tune helps me get into the character’s head as they live through certain experiences.

There are also songs that remind me of a particular character as a whole. For example, “Waves That Rolled You Under” by Young Summer makes me think of my protagonist. The melody is calm–like her–yet the lyrics are powerful, resembling both her personality and her struggles. This particular line reminds me of her main conflict: “I never could say, I never could say again, what I wanted.”

Find as many songs with lyrics and tunes that match your character as you can. When you have, relax, focus on the music, and think about your character.

2. CREATE AN INSPIRATION BOARD

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I highly recommend creating a Pinterest account and making a series of boards for your writing project. I have found this to be extremely helpful. I have a board to save pictures that remind me of certain scenes or the overall story, a board of actors/actresses that I’ve constructed my characters from, and a board for details–the setting, names for fictional elements, mental disorders; all of the important things that I must remember. With Pinterest, you can also make these boards secret, as I have done. No matter if you want to share or hide your project, Pinterest gives you the opportunity to do so.

These boards of mine help me both visualize the appearance of my characters and allow me to pin pictures that make me think of pivotal and emotional moments in their life. There are many amazing photographs in the world that are able to present so much emotion and thoughts within a single still shot of something. The photo above is a superb example as to the strength and inspiration that photography can deliver.

3. LISTEN TO YOUR CHARACTERS

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Okay, this may sound silly, but listen to me until the end. We writers are the people who weave our characters to life, who give them a beating heart and a vivacious soul, but this doesn’t mean we should puppet them around. When you create a character with such depth and emotion, they won’t let you go. They will come to life, and they will tell you–in some way–what they would or wouldn’t do. They will make you feel their loss and their joy as if it were your own. They will become a piece of you.

I know, you must think I sound crazy. I used to read about authors saying how their characters talked to them and told them what to do, and I thought it was madness. Once I started writing and dove into my own characters, my disbelief faded. When I write, I see them in my head, saying and doing certain things. I don’t hear them speaking to me directly, but I can view them in my mind with clarity, listen to their words clearly. If I have trouble seeing their next move or attempt alter their actions, my heart doesn’t feel right, as if they are disapproving of my words. It’s like I can hear them thinking, “I wouldn’t do that.”

This is when I toss around ideas with myself or my family. Eventually, a particular scene will project itself to me and it will click with my heart. I know I’ve found a fit when my characters follow my words with ease.

These are my main tips to creating and learning your characters. What process do you go through when envisioning your characters? If you have any methods of your own, feel free to share them!

P.S. These photos are not mine, but they are pictures from the inspiration board of my duology. 😉

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3 thoughts on “Bringing Characters to Life

  1. Nice tips!

    I don’t believe it is madness to let your characters talk to you. Whether I am in the depths of writing, or simply plotting, I know when the characters are driving my novel I am heading in a good direction. I think when the non-writing types hear advice like this they find it to be utter madness, but we writers know that our characters are an extension of ourselves and seeing them so clearly in our minds is not insanity… well, for the most part haha.

    For me, characters are the most important part of any novel. If the characters are not well developed, interesting and possess their own motivations and agendas I feel very disappointed. I might not even continue with the book. That’s why when I’m writing I focus so much on my characters (when I actually get the time to write, ah).

    I think one of the best ways to really understand character development, as well as a character’s motivations, is to not only read, but to really get into a character driven television series. I’m thinking Game of Thrones and Firefly, but there are so many fantastic series that can help! I sometimes get a lot of inspiration from shows like Arrow and Continuum, but that’s just me. I think it helps me because you can see the character interactions first hand, without having to imagine it all. But, again, that’s just me.

    Good luck with your writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, I agree with you 100%. I was just saying how I’ve really grown so much more fond of the television and film industry recently because of the inspiration I gain from actors and actresses. From the looks of my search history, I probably look like I’m stalking a series of actors and actresses, but it truly helps me to see those people (who, in my head, are my characters) laughing, talking, and acting in different roles.
      I LOVE Game of Thrones and Arrow! I need to wait for Arrow to get on Netflix, because I wasn’t able to watch season four when it was first airing.
      I’m so glad you agree, too. I’m with you all the way–characters make the story.

      Liked by 1 person

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