Monday, July 11, 2011

Fluffing Up a Character

Cushions (1)I mentioned during my post on outlining, that I’d found that the outlining process tended to flatten my characters out. I’d had to fluff them up later, during revisions.

So I got a tweet asking exactly how one goes about fluffing up characters. :)

I think there are lots of ways of doing this. Character worksheets are one of them. You can print out some worksheets and answer some questions about your characters…stuff that helps you think more about what makes them tick. Or you can interview your character…pretend you’re a member of the press (reputable or tabloid) and fire off some questions.

Some days I spend the day with one of my characters. It sounds a little crazy (and probably is), but it works. I wrote a post about it on Penguin’s blog.

The quickest thing I did to unflatten a flat character was a little trick I picked up somewhere. Since flat usually equates stock character, I made a list of all the stereotypes a particular character might have. For instance, one of my characters was a police officer. Lots of stereotypes for policemen come to mind: hard boiled, aggressive, cynical, etc. Then you make a list of the opposite of some of those traits. Soften the opposing traits and incorporate them into the character in a showing-not-telling way. My cop became a frustrated novelist who’d do anything to keep the peace so he can keep working on his manuscript.

Remember where your characters came from—who was behind their genesis? Are they an amalgam of several different people? What makes those real people real and interesting to you? Incorporate some of their traits, quirks, talents, dislikes, and attitudes.

There are lots of ways to fluff up a flat character. What are some of your approaches?