I just finished reading Chapter One: Personalizing in Getting into Character. The method of personalizing goes something like this:
You start by interviewing your character. For example, my character is an architect. So I might ask, “Bethany, why did you decide to be an architect?” I stick with this line of questioning until I hit rock bottom – which leads me to a “So what?” moment. This so-what moment leads to an inner value, which gives rise to a trait, which gives rise to a set of mannerisms. Brandilyn Collins says that many times, writers take a character, pull a few mannerisms from a hat, and slap them on the character in hopes of making him/her identifiable. But really, as she so appropriately puts it, we’re just dressing a mannequin. We want our character’s mannerisms to be a window into something deeper. We want to build our characters from the inside out. It just makes sense, doesn’t it?
To give the process a whirl, I decided to interview my husband. Meet Ryan, my hubby (in the picture above). He was a very cooperative participant. I started with a basic question: Why do you deliver beer for a living? I kept asking more questions based on his responses until I got to some inner values. It was a very enlightening process for both of us. Here’s what we discovered:
Some of Ryan’s inner values:
– He wants to be the best at what he does
– He expects the best from the people around him
– He treats people the way he wants to be treated
– He loves to not just overcome a challenge, but to blow it out of the water
So what traits arose from these inner values?
– hardworking (you can slap me if you’ve ever met a harder worker)
– impatient (when people don’t perform to his expectations)
What mannerisms align with these traits?
– He walks very fast.
– He looks straight ahead (tunnel vision – he gets in a zone).
– If a worker at one of his stops starts talking to him, he’ll often stand by the door and listen, but quickly searches for an appropriate time to bring the conversation to an end so he can do his job (a combination of considerate and impatient)
Often, his impatience to get the job done and to do it well conflicts with his desire to be considerate. If somebody interrupts him while working, his body language might express his impatience. And afterwards, he often scolds himself for his negative attitude and “rude” body language. He feels bad about it and promises himself he won’t fall into the same trap next time.
This was such a fun process to do together. I found out a whole slew of interesting things about my husband. I couldn’t help thinking that I might like to borrow some of his traits, values, etc. for a character in one of my books someday. I’m probably bias (since I love him), but I think he’d make an excellent hero in a contemporary romance!
Question to ponder: How do you get to know your characters on a deep level? How do you make sure they are round instead of flat?removetweetmeme