Episode Title: How do I create characters that people will care about?
As much as the storyline itself, the characters of your tale will tell the tale. Who doesn’t appreciate the crafting of Charles Dickens’ Scrooge, Mario Puzo’s Don Corleone, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Harper Lee’s Atticus Finch, and Margaret Mitchell’s Scarlett O’Hara? Surely, you have your favorites, and they may be many in number. So how do you, in this first effort at story writing, conjure up characters that will be instrumental, remembered…and cared about?
Angela Yuriko Smith
The answer, I believe, is already standing there in your memory—standing like a sentinel waiting to be called upon. And the sentinel has nothing to do with conjuring, it has to do with culling and collecting. Culling and collecting what? Let me answer with this proposition: Have you, at this mature age, not met and observed every personality type known to exist—the timid, the brilliant, the dull, the shy, the bold, the articulate, the thick of tongue, and so on? And have you not met and observed every manner of physical characteristic—the large, the small, the beautiful, the homely , the athlete, the weakling, and many more? Then there are the arrogant, the irritable, the nasty, the kind, the angry, the vulgar, and so many others to add to the compilation.
The answer, then, lies within you. Think of all of those you have known, the breadth and depth of them. Think of the role you need your character not so much to perform, but to live in. Then, pull a combination of traits from your collection that will make a whole character, living and breathing. A character who, like us, has strengths and weaknesses, desires and passions, likes and dislikes, for no one is perfect and no one is all bad—Bonnie still loved Clyde. Rather than conjure, draw from the great salmagundi of traits available to you. You are the creator—blow breath and life into your characters—their characteristics drawn from those of real people—and they shall become real, someone to know…someone to care about.
How about this: Pick three people who you know very well and list as many physical, personality, persona, and emotional characteristics about them that you can think of. Once you have all of the attributes down for each of the three, see how you might mix the traits to create a fourth person—your new character. Remember, now that you have decided to write your story, a wonderful source of character information already lies within. Draw on the hundreds of people you know and have known, for you will find many fine characters there, awaiting your magical creation of them.