05-26-18 – Blog Queen - Sarah Raplee

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Character Character Character

I often hear “Oh… you should use them for a character in your next book!” or “She’s so funny, she’d be perfect in your next story!”

The only problem is, that is impossible. To use one person intact wouldn't work, at least for me. I'm an observer and I love to people-watch. I collect data in little tidbits constantly, filing them away for later use. My characters are an amalgam of far more than one hundred people, and on any given day I hear tidbits of conversations or accents, observe quirks or mannerisms, or note someone’s unusual style of walk or clothing. These tidbits will end up as one amalgamated character and in that character is someone people can hopefully connect to and feel their emotions as the story evolves.

Many tidbits are used, many are not.
As much as I would love to put my best friend into a book, what she does not realize is that she is already there in the way the heroine tucks her hair behind her ear, or the type of music she favors, or her appreciation for Italian cars.

Before I even begin to write a story I know my characters so well that I know how they will react in every circumstance. They frequently speak to me while writing, telling me exactly what they’d like to say and how and when they’d say it. They discuss how the story should go and often the story will change to accommodate them. But never will they change to accommodate the story.

I love a good character we can all relate to, don’t you?

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© SamMarie Ashe 2011 All Rights Reserved


Judith Ashley said...

I think people watching is a great way to find those little mannerisms or characteristics that make a character 'real'. One of my favorite things to do is to make up stories for the people I see. A friend of mine and I used to do that and then we'd approach the person to see how accurate we were. LOL we were closer to who the person was (occupation, traveling or live in area, married or not (wedding rings don't always mean anything), interests, etc.) than one might think. This was over a decade ago and at that time no one was upset or distressed by our antics and in fact we had some great conversations with people we introduced ourselves to.

Sarah Raplee said...

You are so right, Sami People-watching is an important tool in the ol' Characterization Toolkit. You certainly put it to good use! I don't always know my characters as well as you do when I begin my first draft, but I seem to better with each manuscript.

Listening to the way real people talk is another form of people-watching that I find invaluable for writing natural-sounding dialogue. I bet you do that, too.

Vonnie Alto said...

I admire your pre-writing. Often, I don't know my characters enough before I start writing my book. Perhaps that's why my books are more plot driven than character driven. This means a lot of backtracking to layer in the nuances of my characters. By the way, I love the cat photo!

Tam Linsey said...

I agree, a character can change the story, but never will the character change to accommodate the story.

SamMarie Ashe said...

Oh my gosh, I completely spaced on the fact that I had a post on 6/14!
I am soooo sorry! My non-writing life (that personal stuff that intrudes when all I wanna do is write) took over for the month of June, but now I'm back on track. Yay! Ready to tackle July and a new story, finally.

Thank you all for commenting, have a great day!