This past weekend I went to my work Christmas Party, where we all took part in a Murder Mystery Dinner which was beyond fun. Here’s my name tag from the evening:
I’ve only been at my work place three months, so only the kitchen staff really knows me. I have the feeling now that I’m never going to be called ‘Will’ again there, though. All the middle-aged women LOVE to call me Fabio and Pool Boy. Great.
Anyways, as I was trying to get in character for this murder mystery dinner, it really made me think of writing.I found myself doing the same things I do when I’m thinking about a character for a story.
First things first I read the character description of Fabio and tried to formulate ideas of how he would talk, look and act. Now, this is similar to characters I’ve created. The major difference is that I write the character profile of my characters, but all the steps to understanding everything about them seemed to be the same steps I was taking to get inside the head of Fabio Fabulous the Pool Boy.
It went something like this:
1) First I had to imagine what this character is going to wear. Dress can say a lot about a character, and is often an easy place to start if you’re still getting to know them. I always think how I want others to see my character, and then what kind of clothes can help accentuate that view.
2) The face of a character is essential to the identity of said character. Not just the physical features, but the expressions they use. Many times when I’m imagining up a character, I start thinking about how they will respond to certain things and what sorts of looks they will give. It’s always good to start with how others will see your characters because, in a sense, you’re still getting to know them as well. Many times, when a character comes to my, they are already fully formed and I have to delve into their mind to learn more about them. A lot of this stuff seems to already be present, I just haven’t figured it out yet.
3) Your character’s voice is also important to understanding how their brain works. How will they talk? Usually, I try to make it a representation of how I’d assume they talk based on their features. Often times, though, when I imagine them saying something I hear a voice that is just right for my character. I’m not sure if others do this, but I will often try to imitate this voice I hear, using my own. Often when I am writing a novel, I find myself speaking aloud the dialogue, trying to say it exactly as my character would. This is a bit strange, I know, but it really helps me.
4) Once you’ve sort of seen how others will perceive your character and you’ve gotten to know their physical characters, it’s important to get into their minds. By this time, in my mind anyway, the characters are, themselves, their own identity. I think of them like I think of real people and it’s like I’m having ‘real’ memories. Once I get the physicality of the character down, the creative input on my part is over. I don’t imagine what goes on inside each character’s head, I have to discover it for myself. This is the stage where you try to enter your characters’ mind. You really have to put yourself in their shoes and imagine how they would react to different circumstances. It can really get as complicated as pretending you are someone else and trying to figure out the workings of that person’s head.
5) Sometimes, though, your characters can take on lives of their own and it’s up to you to try and reign them in. I no longer have to try and think up how they will respond to certain things, I just think of a situation and in my mind my character’s reactions unfold with little work on my part. I guess this is the greatest part about having an imagination. The last little thing that I do to try to understand my characters is trying to make sure they all have their own, unique voice. I think if you don’t get into the mindset of each character, they will all start to sound the same. Sometimes, for me, the best way to do this is to really think about each character on their own. I’ll go for several days imagining how my character would react to situations in my own life, before switching to a new character. I like to think of this as mental Halloween stretched over many days.
These are just very simplified steps I take in trying to get inside the heads of my characters. I’m not sure if it will even make sense to anyone else, but it makes a lot of sense to me. That’s why I do it, obviously. If you can relate, please comment. If you really don’t have a clue what I’m talking about because you think I’m slightly crazy I really don’t expect you to comment.
For all the writers out there, I have a question for you. Is there any particular way you try and understand your characters? Maybe the process is different for every character? Do you even think about them, or do they write themselves?
Basically, I’m trying to ask what sorts of quirks do you do when imagining, thinking about, creating and writing characters?
Thanks for reading!
- Character Development: Becoming a Split Personality (ellynbaker.wordpress.com)
- Writing About Emotions (speculativeedgewriting.wordpress.com)
- Character Creation – Yes, I struggle (kevinpbarker.wordpress.com)
- My blog, all things writing. (kateannejack.wordpress.com)