Thursday, October 25, 2012

Walk A Mile in Your Characters' Moccasins

 The typical advice you get in writing books about how to build characters is to create a detailed dossier about each character. You're supposed to write down everything that you can think of about the character from physical description to foods they like to eat  o attitudes about politics. According to these teachers that is the way that you get  o know your character.

It certainly isn't a bad way of developing a character. However, it is not  he only way. You don't have to make copious notes about your character to get to know him/her. If that isn't your style, here's a way to develop characters from the inside out. It requires some quiet time when you won't be interrupted. So, you might send the kids and hubby/wifey out to a movie while you do this.

I lie down  for this exercise, but that is dangerous because I sometimes fall asleep. Just be sure you are in a comfortable position sitting or laying.

Close your eyes and begin by visualizing your character. Don't try to force anything. Just let the image come to you. It may be vague at first, but it will get more clear over time. Then see yourself merging with the character, and begin to see the world from his/her point of view. At this point you could open your eyes and look around your room. What would that character see and think about what s/he sees? Glance at a newspaper or open a news site on the internet. Where does that character go first? How does s/he react to things like the color scheme or the layout of the page?

Try walking like the character, talking, gesturing like him/her. Again, don't try to force this. Let it happen naturally. You will feel it if the voice or walk doesn't fit. If so, ask why and then change it.

Let your character within you, think about the other characters. What are the quick impressions s/he has of them? Why do they feel that way? What in their background brought that about? But frame the question from inside the character saying "What happened to me that made me dislike Christmas?"

Let the memories from this character come to you? What are favorite ones? Terrifying ones? Sad ones? Again don't try to force anything, let the character speak to you from inside you.

This method is great for those of you with a drama background or who like playing "lets pretend" or are kinesthetic learners.

It's certainly not for everyone, but it is a good one for some people.


  1. Great advice! I did do a lot of drama when I was in school, and I sort of naturally "get into character" when I write. You did a great job of describing the process. I do it so instinctively now, I don't think I could have put it into words that way.

  2. I did a lot of drama and readers theater in high school and college. So, it comes easily for me as well.

  3. Fascinated by this and shall most certainly consider using it. The trouble with intellectualizing when my characters stick is that they become more like me than themselves lol

    I also had a drama background and it will be great to get back into that persona.

  4. Yes, I say don't try to "think" out what your characters will so, but feel it as if you we're the character