As much as the story itself, the characters of your tale will tell the tale. Who doesn’t appreciate the crafting of Charles Dicken’s Scrooge, Mario Puzo’s Don Corleone, or Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn? Surely, you have your favorites and they may be many in number. So, how do you, in this first effort to write your novel, conjur up characters who will be instrumental, remembered…and cared about?
The answer, I believe, is already standing there in your memory–standing like a sentinel waiting to be called upon. And the sentinel has nothing to do with conjuring, it has to do with culling and collecting. Culling and collecting what? Let me answer with this proposition: Have you, at this mature age, not met and observed every personality known to mankind–the aggressive, the timid; the brilliant, the dull; the shy, the bold; the articulate, the thick of tongue, and so on? And have you not met and observed every manner of physical characteristic–the large, the small; the beautiful, the homely; the athlete, the weakling, and much, much more? Then there are the arrogant, the irritable, the nasty, the kind, the angry, and the vulgar.
The answer, then, lies within you. Think of all of those you have known, the breadth and depth of them. Think of what role you need your character not so much to perform, but to live in. Then pull from your collection the combination of traits that will make a whole character, living and breathing. A character that, like us, has strengths and weaknesses, has desires and passions, has likes and dislikes, for no one is perfect and no one is all bad–Bonnie still loved Clyde. Rather than conjure, then, combine from the great salmagundi of traits available to you. You are the creator–blow the breath and life into your real characters and they shall become someone to know…someone to care about.
Next week’s blog: What if my actual writing and grammar skills are suspect?
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R. Scott Franklin, Author, Clarity is Dying