The practice of the creative writer can often be a solitary thing. It is very important to have this peaceful thinking space; however, until you have tried communicating your ideas to someone else, how can you be sure they will be understood? I asked some author friends what tips they had for fleshing out convincing fictional people. These are a few of the methods they suggested:
Gossiping is a very important psychological process which allows us to analyse the ethical implications of human behaviour while at the same time building feelings of solidarity between our gossiping co-conspirators and ourselves. You could try gossiping about your character as if they are real (it’s probably best that whoever you’re talking to be made aware your character is fictional; otherwise they could waste several hours trying to find their profile on Facebook), revealing all of the juicy salacious details of their life and behaviour. Nothing makes a person more complete and interesting than their flaws, ethical complexities and that irritating way they swallow loudly when they drink tea. Note: if your character eventually sues you for slander then you may have gone a little too far.
2 Personal Artefacts and Property
Personally speaking, I like to keep all my old shop receipts in my handbag as I feel it creates a lovely soft bedding for my mobile phone, the lip gloss that has fluff in it and the Biro which is currently spewing its ink all over the post-it note full of highly important information. The contents of a person’s bag or glove compartment can provide a piercing insight into their personality, daily life and priorities. For instance, the presence of a nicotine patch indicates an ongoing battle against smoking. This in turn may suggest that they could have a reason to give up smoking, such as a new baby or a worsening health condition, or it could simply imply that this character might have rather a short temper at present in stark contrast to their normal bubbly self. By writing a list of contents, and then passing the list to someone else to read, you will be able to get a picture of how someone else may interpret the meaning of the objects and whence the personality of your character.
3 Be them
We are all prone to talking to ourselves of occasion, and so your character would probably do the same. Acting out the character yourself, mumbling thoughts out loud, may help you to gain insight into their demeanour and voice as well as their inconsequential rambling thought processes. Again, do warn any flatmates before hand, especially if your character happens to have a deep demonic growl.
What do you do to get to know your characters? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Take care, Poppy
p.s. –The Writing Laboratory offers one-to-one Skype sessions with writing professionals to discuss all facets of the writing process. Please visit www.thewritinglaboratory.co.uk for more information.