Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ideas for Real Life Characters

Writers Digest had an excellent article on characterization in January 2011 written by David Corbett. A small part of that article was subtitled Real-Life Characters, and it offered a list of possible characters you might find in your own life. The author suggested you create a list of interesting people and provide details, physical appearance, and the effect this person had on you. This activity triggered a double idea which I’d like to share with you.

First, where do you get your characterization ideas? Your imagination is one place that works. It’s where I get most of my ideas. Another is from people you know or have known in your past. You may not want to use the specifics about the person, but it may stimulate your creativity and you can grab a characteristic from one person, a flaw from another, or an attribute from another and build your own original character.

A second idea came from the same part of the article and that is creating your own interesting characters or secondary characters by preparing a list of character types and then referring to them as you begin to build your plot and create your story ideas. Do you need conflict? Look at the list and decide if one of these characters might appear in your novel and add tension. Here’s a few ideas of my own and from the author’s list, but you can add many others from your own experience and then have a great character resource when you need it.

A neighborhood bully
A neighbor who causes you suspicion
A family member you are close to
A family member who brings out the best in you
A family member who brings out the worst in you
A friend who brings out the best in you
A friend who brings out the worst in you
A childhood friend you continue to see or hear from
Someone you had a secret crush on or felt an attraction
Your first love
Your favorite neighbor
Your least favorite neighbor
Your adult workplace nemesis
Your childhood nemesis
A person who believed in you
A favorite teacher
A person who annoys you
A person you consider needy
A love you lost
A stranger who touched your life
A person who impacted your life
Someone who constantly puts you down
A person you admire
A person you fear
Someone you would like to be
Any elderly neighbor you find intriguing
A person who taught you an important lesson

You can add many characters to this list and keep it for times when you desire to up your plot with something new or different. Keep notes on people you meet or who cross your path. You never know when someone might trigger a great character idea for you.


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I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to understand. I also found your posts very interesting. In fact after reading, I had to go show it to my friend and he enjoyed it as well!

Gail Gaymer Martin said...

Thanks so much, and please invite your friends to drop by. The more the merrier. I also welcome questions. If I can help, I will.


Fiona Ingram said...

Thanks for this. I always find that using real people as the basis for characters adds depth and 'reality.'

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Great! Thanks for sharing.