So You Want to Write A Book: Characterization
When a reader opens a book, settles down with their cup of cocoa, shutting out the world around them, they expect – scratch that – they demand a story that envelops them and carries them off to another reality. They aren’t requiring the alternate universe that their chosen author designed to be flawless or perfect, but if the characters are one-dimensional and the reader is unable to connect, the experience becomes unmemorable.
Part of developing a believable storyline, is through careful construction of authentic characters with rich backgrounds. You must create protagonists that are complex, with pasts that have molded their personalities, their actions and the world around them. They don’t have to be kind, or good, or even moral, but they must be multifaceted. In order to obtain this level of characterization, a writer must get to know the character on a very personal level.
For me, writing characters requires sharing a piece of myself. It means long hours researching and creating a past so intricate, if you asked me anything about them, I could answer without a second thought. I know the names of their friends, aunts, uncles, dogs, fish; I know the name of the boy who broke their heart and the girl who stole their purse on that ill-fated trip to Disneyland 20 years ago; I know the date of their birth and the age when they lost their first tooth. Think I am lying, well you should see my writing bible. Writing bible, you ask? Well, it is a 250 page outline and back story of my manuscript, complete with typed backgrounds, written notes and photographs. It spells out every question a reader might pose and is the glue that holds together my books continuity.
Overboard? Maybe, but it works for me. I know writers who storyboard their scenes, others who cut out magazine clippings of images for recalling physical descriptions. I write the outline to my lead and peripheral characters and complete a questionnaire for all my characters before putting my proverbial pen to paper. It helps me…a lot. And though I am not saying this is the only way, because there are a lot of very successful writers who don’t believe in any outlining or prep, it is a good place to start. It can unplug those writer roadblocks and help push your story further.
Whatever device you choose to enlist in your quest to create deep characters, just make sure it remains authentic to the story.
If you are interested in writing a book, but don’t know where to start, Gliterary Girl Media Group offers one on one coaching with a processional writer and coach. See our site for details.