So here’s an exercise that will help you learn about your character or at least help you create a new one.
I saw this picture from Life of these four girls playing in a wind storm. They look happy, as if the time of their lives was this very moment. What is in a picture? What can be determined about life and it’s truth from what we see?
When writing, one of the most important things I do is question my characters, who they are, what they want, how did they get there? Yes, it’s the motivation that drives the character, the thirst for the goal. But what about things that are not as abstract, things that tell me more about the character than just their goal of world domination or winning the pageant?
That’s when things like pictures come in handy. A picture like the one above is perfect because it creates a moment. In this moment, everything from body language to expression tells the truth about what is going on. What is the truth behind this moment? I argue that that is where the story truly begins.
So let’s take this exercise a bit further. What else can tell us about these four young girls and about who they are and what they want? Where are they safe to be true to themselves?
How about their bedrooms?
What type of things could you find there? Do they share a room with someone? What does the space under the bed look like? Or do they sleep on the floor? Where do they keep their clothes? If they wanted to keep something private and special in a place that was public, where would it be and how would they safe guard it.
This is the joy of characterization. It’s more than what a character wants but why they want it and what drove them there. Could one of these little girls want world domination? Maybe. If that’s the case, what is their world like now.
So I leave you with this piece of advice when returning to your characters, go beyond what you put on the pages. Know them inside out. Your prose will thank you.