Monday, August 2, 2010

Creating Lifelike Characters


I know that it seems like I spend way too much time at the swimming pool. It’s just been such an incredibly hot summer (even for the Deep South), that whenever my children utter the fateful words, “We’re bored!” then I just pop them in the car and take them off to the pool.

I was at the pool last week and something started bothering me about the tree in the picture. See the tree I’m talking about? It’s huge. It’s like a pine tree on steroids.

The other thing that bothered me about the tree is that, despite the fact it was a windy day and the other trees were blowing back and forth, it didn’t move at all.

Finally I took a picture of the tree (the mommies at the pool are getting used to my weirdness by now, I guess…laptops at the pool, notebooks at the pool, talking to myself, taking notes on the people walking and talking around me, taking pictures of trees….They don’t ever seem to engage me in conversation—I wonder why!) and I realized that the tree was, actually, a cell phone tower disguised to look like a tree.

Having a character stand out in a book because they’re too stiff or not lifelike is a problem—especially if the character is our protagonist.

How can we make our characters more lifelike?

Cheat a little and base the character on someone or several people we know well.

Have the character really feel emotions and show them displaying some emotional range—humor, anger, trepidation.

Give the character a few flaws. Nobody’s perfect.

Help put the reader in the protagonist’s head. What is the character thinking? When a new character is introduced, what does the protagonist think of him or her?

Character growth and development. Does the character change and grow? Or is he static?

How do you make your characters more lifelike?