So let’s talk about characters.
When I’m creating my characters, I prefer to base them, in part, on fictional characters from movies and TV shows.
For some reason, I just can’t connect until I go through this “casting” process.
Nine times out of ten, my characters start out based loosely on some actor or character from a movie or television show. See, I like to get a handle on my character’s physical appearance first. This way, I can clearly visualize them when I’m assigning them personality traits and back story. When I try to do this backwards, giving the character their identity first and appearance second, I find that it doesn’t work as well or as quickly.
The same is true when I read. I can’t fully connect to a character until I can visualize them, and I can’t visualize them until I get a good idea of what they look like.
I’m weird that way.
Take my WIP, White Rabbit, for example.
I had every single character visualized except for my villain (important, you think?). As such, I was having a hard time connecting to him and making him come alive on the page and so he didn’t really “pop” in my novel’s early drafts.
While taking a break from writing White Rabbit, I started to binge watch Breaking Bad (phenomenal show, by the way) and was really inspired by the character of Gus Fring (played by Giancarlo Esposito).
Gus had pretty much everything I was trying to instill in my villain. He wasn’t a big, bad muscle man. He didn’t get his own hands dirty, unless as a last resort. He had a very unassuming presence, easily ignored or looked over while still being dangerous as hell. He was quiet and very smart, which, for me, only served to make him more scary.
I now had the visual for my villain and then just like that, he came to life in my mind. I flew through his back story and his dialogue was the easiest to write in the book.
Here are some tips to visualizing and creating your characters:
1. Keep a file of interesting characters you come across both in your real life and in fiction. Make note of their physical appearances, any interesting quirks, and snippets of dialogue that catch your ear.
2. Invent a back story for the character, even if he or she doesn’t have a set place in a WIP yet
3. Be sure to switch up a few of this characters details to suit your story or even your personal tastes
4. Keep a diary in your character’s voice (ideally, you want to write this in the first person) so that you can get to know him/or her. You’d be surprised what the character will tell you once you let them take over.