If you’re like me, you already have a mental image of your main characters. But we sometimes have trouble bringing our character(s) to life. No matter what you do, or try, he or she fails to stand out from the crowd. Yes?
Well, let's take a few minutes to find out who your character is.
- Where was the character born and raised?
- Who were the parents?
- What was the character's childhood like?
- What members of a family does the character have?
- What education did the character have?
- What kind of a student was the character?
- What special skills or knowledge does the character possess?
- What hobbies did or does the character have?
- What are the bad habits of the character?
- What are some of the traits of the character—emotional, mental and physical?
- What kind of job or profession is the character occupied with, past and present?
- And, finally, what are some of the character's past and present relationships?
Can you see how the answers to these questions determine what and who your character is? If he's the 'good guy' then you want to create favorable background information to the questions above. If he's the antagonist, the answers will be far different.
Okay, let's take the above questions and supply some answers for your male protagonist –the good guy. I’ve written some answers to help you understand what to be thinking/looking for.
- Where was he born and raised?
Born in the American Embassy in Berlin. At the age of two, family moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
- Who were his parents?
Educated; U.S.-born. Liberal and easy-going.
- What was his childhood like?
- What family members does he have?
Paternal grandmother; Aunt; Father & Mother; cousin.
- What education did the have?
- What kind of a student was he?
Good student, but not straight A
- What special skills or knowledge does he possess?
- What hobbies did or does he have?
Horseback riding; Ham Radio; music
- What are his bad habits?
Impatience; jumping to conclusions; preoccupation; quarrelsome
- What are some of his traits—emotional, mental and physical?
Farsighted; intense; stubborn; wiry; moustache; tanned; wavy, graying hair; ruggedly handsome; bachelor
- What kind of job or profession is he occupied with, past and present?
Builder; architect; musician
- And, finally, what are some of his past and present relationships?
Old girlfriend; partner; former employee; rival.
All right! now print this out and take another look at the questions and the answers I've provided. Does this guy begin to take shape? Is he 'fleshing out' a little bit in your mind's eye? Good! Now, start a new list, using the same questions, only this time put in your own ideas. Then, another list, and profile your antagonist. Then your female protagonist. This will be fun.
Hope this has helped you with your troublesome character, hero or heroine, antagonist, or any other character you plan to have in your story. Once you 'see' them like this, you'll find it much easier to write about them and make the come alive to your reader.
I’ve used this ‘interview’ many times before and am using it right now with the characters in my current work-in-progress.
I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts about this.