Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Creating Characters: Guest Post by author Debbie Brown

Author Debbie Brown has recently had a novel published by Mythos Press, an imprint of GMTA  Publishing. To celebrate the occasion, she is a guest on my blog today, here to talk about creating characters and share information about her novel, Emma.

Welcome, Debbie!

Creating Characters

By Debbie Brown

He’s Alive!

OK, fun aside, every story needs a good character. It just so happens that the last book I read struck me in an odd way. It was the first time I came across a book where I found the characters to be flat and lifeless.  Instead of putting it down, I observed them. I wanted to figure out why that had happened, what was missing, and where the author went wrong.

When it comes to creating characters, a fun exercise can be to go out into the world and observe. Now, make sure you don’t go and get yourself arrested for stalking. If your MC happens to be eight years old and you’ve decided to hang around parks to get a feel for the eight year old, be discrete.

Step one would be to observe and take notes. Describe your character, noting everything from clothing, to physical traits, and then his ticks or mannerisms. Watch his expressions, dialogue and reactions. Be as detailed as possible at this stage.

Once you’ve done that, describe the scene that is playing out before you. Don’t try to turn it into anything other than what it is, at least not yet. So, here you are, the observer or reporter, documenting what your character is up to. Next, switch modes, and get inside your character’s head. Write what is going on from his point of view. Write not only what he is saying, but what you believe he’s thinking. Become the child. What’s he feeling and thinking as the scene plays out?

Try the same thing with a young mother, a business man, a sports coach or anyone you please. Sit in a mall, arena, or library, and watch people going about their routine. Friends, co-workers and family make good targets to study as well.

Another exercise would be to watch the physiological responses of your subject. What I mean by that is watch their reactions…His eyes widened, lifted his chin defiantly, her eyes narrowed and she let out a slow breath through clenched teeth, his shoulders sagged, she stiffened, her eyes darted around the room nervously…

What do you think she is feeling, thinking...

OK, I think you get the picture. But wait! Those were external descriptions of your character, the things we see. What would be going on inside? His stomach lurched, he swallowed the lump forming in his throat but refused to back down, rage bubbled up from inside as she fought for control, all hope drained away, a chill ran up her spine, her insides shook as she searched frantically for a way out…

You can make a chart with physical descriptions and all the details we covered above for future reference. And if you find names you like, throw them in.

When it comes to inserting your character into your story, you want to describe him, but you also want to let the reader create an image of your character in his mind.  Another book I read had the author describing, in detail, every piece and brand of clothing on the character…in every single scene. At one point, it becomes overkill.

Give a general description at first, and then add a detail here and there as you go along.

Hopefully, you will be able to create a living, breathing character that will thrive as he makes his way through your story.

If you want to test out your creations, try describing a family member, friend or co-worker, and see if the others figure can out who he or she is. If you get it right, they won’t hesitate to identify the person.

If ever you don’t get out enough to try this out, turn on the television and try with one of those characters. Oh, and show, don't tell. Remember to have fun.  ;o)

As an ER nurse, Emma knows life can change in the blink of an eye. When fate comes knocking, she finds herself far away from the city and back on the mountain ranch where she grew up -with the intention to close up and sell the house so she can move on. But fate isn’t done with her yet, and that’s when she finds him, the one Two-Feathers calls ‘Star Brother’. Wounded and unconscious, Emma assumes he’s a military test pilot, until he opens his amethyst eyes and stares into the very essence of her being.  

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All her life, Debbie has spun stories in her mind, watching characters come to life, seemingly by themselves. After working as a nurse, teacher, martial arts instructor, artist, and CIC officer in the Canadian forces, not to mention her many hobbies, her life reads like a story itself. And yet, her favorite thing is still a cozy fire, a good book, and country living with her husband JP and her youngest of four children. After graduating from the Institute of Children’s Literature’s advanced writing course, she is finally devoting herself to writing these stories down, taking us all on a ride we won’t quickly forget.

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