One thing I love about the holidays is the Twilight Zone marathons. This last Thursday was no exception. One episode caught my son’s interest. In A WORLD OF HIS OWN, a playwright’s wife catches him with another woman. Problem is the other woman somehow ‘disappeared’. The playwright then confesses his ability to make his characters come right to life. Unfortunately the wife finds out the hard way that she is one of his characters too.
My son asked me, “Mommy, wouldn’t it be cool to do that?”
How often do our characters speak to us? I decided last month I’d start a new project. I wanted it to be something unlike anything I’ve written so far. Well, my characters got very antsy, one in particular. I swear Carter, kept on me to write certain scenes and he couldn’t wait for me to get to act two of my story where he meets Esperanza.
We all know the rules on writing characters. To avoid stereotypes and clichés. One thing I learned from a UCI extension class I took with Louella Nelson is to sketch out my characters. I go through magazines and tear out photos of people I think would look like my characters though with my current project I went to iStock. Then I list down all their strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and a wound. For example in CROSSED OUT, Stephanie’s wound is she doesn’t trust authority.
Another big thing I learned is to flesh out the villain. Some of my favorite villains of all time include Spike from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, Damon from VAMPIRE DIARIES, and yes, Rhett Butler from GONE WITH THE WIND. I try to show some weakness from my villains. It’s like someone once told me when I was writing my memoir on my life growing up with a bipolar father, that I needed to look for vulnerability. Yes, it was tough but doable.
What are some ways you bring your characters to life?