Monday, April 21, 2014

Breathing Life Into Your Characters

When I think of my favorite books, what I remember before character or plot is how I felt after reading the author's words. I think that's probably the goal for every storyteller -- for their narrative to be powerful enough to evoke emotions. Whether it's anger or angst, cheerfulness or bitterness, love or hatred, these are the bumps in the road of life that make such a deep impression, we remember them. It seems to be equally true when we read about characters experiencing them.

I compare an amazing manuscript to a great cake recipe. Sugar and flour alone won't a cake make. Only the perfect ratio of voice, goals, rhythm, pacing, plot, with dashes of descriptions that cover our senses (touch, sight, smell, sound, taste) will result in a great manuscript -- or at least get us started on one.

Every writer has different methods they use to help strengthen their writing. People watching and interviewing characters from our books are two of the more popular ones. Personally, I find I'm always searching for new ways to show. We all know that one of writing's most basic rules is showing not telling. If we 'show' our Readers what we want to convey, we can provoke a mental picture in their mind. If they can 'see' what we are seeing, they will become more engaged in our story.

One thing I found helps me show emotions in different ways is taking notes while I watch TV. I'm all over Meredith Gray rolling her eyes at April (seriously?) or Cristina's deadpan stare (again, seriously?) or studying how Derek always rubs his face when he's apologizing. (Of course, studying Derek for any reason isn't quite work, is it?)

However, my absolute favorite to watch for note taking is SHREK. That lovable ogre emotes better than most people. It's literally all over his face. When he's angry his eyebrows knit together, perplexed -- one eyebrow will cock higher than the other or if he's surprised those eyebrows will shoot skyward. I can then take these physical reactions and apply them appropriately to my characters. 

So, what tricks do you use to bring your story to life?

photo credit: moriza via photopin cc


  1. I think your cake analogy is sooo good. And, now I need cake. :)

    I've been wanting to watch Shrek 2 during a family move night lately (Puss in Boots!!!) so this seals the deal. I also happen to have 2 episodes of Once Upon a Time to watch. I'll have my notebook in hand and consider it research time. :-) Great tips!

  2. What great ideas! I love TV and movies. Now, I'll be taking notes!!! :)

  3. Thanks guys. :) Yes, any reason I can give myself for watching TV I do. LOL!