Meeting Your Characters

Today I want to talk about characters, mostly because of something that happened today. In my job, I meet a whole bunch of people, since we’re a busy institution with between 40,000 and 200,000 visitors a month. I don’t get to talk to all of them, of course, and fair enough, but I do get to see and talk to quite a few. Meeting people and being around people is great for a writer, since you get to experience the way people walk, talk, sit, stand and everything in between, which can be great for inspiration for characters and describing the way someone looks or their reactions to things. Of course, as writers we know enough about humans and the way they interact to make up characters without specifically finding someone to base them on. That’s what imagination is for, right? Well, that and working out who’d win if all the superheroes had a fight.

Via DC ComicsIt’s Batman.

Whilst every character, even the invented ones, has some real life basis, it’s important to go beyond that. I do include people I know in my work, sometimes consciously and other times just because they’re on my mind a lot that week. But I don’t go out and out to make them exactly the same as the people they’re based on. This is because you have to meet the character. You have to know the character inside out and back to front to write them fully, and no matter how well we know our friends, our family, and the local bar tender, we don’t know everything about them.

Via The GuardianHe’s usually kind of blurry.

So a certain amount about them becomes invention, dictated by the necessity of being able to write them as fully as possible and have them fit into the world you’re writing. Since the novel I’m working on at the moment is a fantasy setting, my perceptions of those around me – friends and strangers – aren’t always useful to the world and have to be substituted for something…not better, but more fitting. Meeting the character is important, then, because you have to know them, know what it would be like to have a conversation with them, to face them and watch the way their eyes move or their lips curl and so on. Some of this won’t make it into the writing – there’s such a thing as too much detail – but it’s useful to know when you write so that the character is real to you. And if it’s real to you, then it should mean it’s real on the page too.

That said, what happened today was a bit of a surprise. There’s a character in the novel, loosely based on a couple of friends, but with a few bits of invention from me to help write her better. Today, that character (albeit in modern dress) walked into the room. I don’t mean that figuratively. An actual human being walked into the room and she looked exactly like this character and not only that, she had exactly the same way of moving and exactly the same nervous tick. Needless to say, I was a bit shocked, but I think I covered it well.

Via TumblrOr not.


2 Responses to “Meeting Your Characters”
  1. Dad xx says:

    If you reacted like the man in the video attached I guess maybe someone would have a glimmer of an idea.

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