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So another character development book hit the shelves. What are you going to do? Are you going to run out and buy it? I can tell you with 100% certainty that as soon as you buy that book, get it home and start reading, another—possibly even better— ‘How To: Character Development Book Every Writer MUST Have’ will have been published and already on its way to bookstores.
As writers zombie-rush the bookstores—many possibly really talented ones—other writers, who just can’t stop writing long enough to go out and find ‘a real job’, that pays with ‘real money’, printed on ‘real paper checks’ that magically causes ‘real food’ to appear in the fridge and cupboards, and allows you to have a bit left over for things like books and bills.
But really though, who needs all that ‘stuff’?
You’re a real writer. You save money because you know the lie that popular films feed people; the one about the writer’s who have all the funds at their fingers to go out and romance the world and then thirty days later they’ve written another New York Times Best Seller. Yep that’s the lie I was talking about. Writers save money because, although you just may be the next famous author, you’re not writing for fame. You are a writer, and you write because you must. Feast or famine. So you’re probably not ready just yet to give up that $30 for a ‘How To’ book. I don’t blame you.
The good thing is that you don’t have to buy a book to sharpen your writing skills. There’s a beautiful resource for that called: The Internet. The internet is an amazing resource for writers, you just have to change the way you think when it comes to using it.
So let me share with you a practical application process for thinking differently to re-purpose internet websites to help get your creative juices flowing.
STEP ONE: Who, What, Why, When, Where, and How is a character?
There are many factors that come into play when it comes to creating and developing a character, because of the great depth of character. You can spend hours and hours writing lists and lists of elements that one needs to create a person. I like to simplify things and then let the characters themselves come to life in my stories.
A few of the things that I like to look at when creating characters is:
Where they live
Where they work
The friends they keep
You can really tell a lot about a person by spending some time in their home. So it’s important for me to allow my characters to show me where they live. How do I give them this freedom? Real Estate Agent websites is honestly one of the best.
Search #1 Reality Agent Sites: A few questions you may want to ask yourself before just jumping into a search of the electronic informational ocean:
Where does your character live?
Why does he/she live there?
How does he/she afford it?
When did he/she move in - or - did they build it themselves?
You may know all the answers to these questions ahead of time, or you might not have a clue. Either is a perfect place to start.
[Note: This should probably go without saying, but I’ll remind you: Be open for new characters and new stories to introduce themselves as you browse. As you look at the world around you, there are literally thousands and hundreds of thousands of stories in every place and at every moment. Just be prepared, open and willing for them to introduce themselves at any time.]
My character is Canadian, aye. But at the point in my story where I’ll be introducing him he would have already moved and been living in Florida, Myrtle Beach to be exact (because that’s where my book takes place), and I know NOTHING else about this character. Makes it more exciting this way.
MY SEARCH: Realty Agent Myrtle Beach
So yea, there’s pages of options. I looked through a few and found one that has a great selection of homes and photos to browse through without having to first give up all my personal information: http://jterealestate.com/
Perfect. There’s a ton of houses. All kinds of houses. Some still furnished. Yes… now, browsing through all the photos, several characters—like ghosts from the past or from some distant future, alternate reality— begin to appear in empty hallways; this one having coffee at the kitchen table; this one peeking around the corner from the fifth room on the second floor. Characters show up as each photo opens up to me: portals into both fictional and non-fiction moments in multi-genre history streams.
You’ll see what I mean. Give it a little time. Soon you’ll have worlds of characters desiring to share a coffee, scotch, and some of the younger ones chocolate milk, as they share stories and secrets apply for an opportunity for you to immortalize them on white leaves and in electronic libraries.
But where’s my guy? I’m not here for new stories. One at a time. Finish my current WIP. Soon enough I find his house. I can’t explain how I know it’s his house. You just know it when you see it; like walking into the house of your best friend or lover. It feels like her. Smells like him. It’s right.
5 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, 3 port garage. Tall victorian doors. Hardwood floors, naturally finished classic crown molding. Pool. Indoor hot tub.
SEARCH # 2: What kind career affords someone this $5.5 home? Doctor? Neurosurgeon? Attorney? Yes, an attorney. My character must me an attorney. He’s an attorney. But what kind of attorney? What does he do? What firm? Well in keeping with my idea of him moving from Canada, that’s where I’ll search. No, wait. He has a bit more to him. What if he couldn’t afford this house? What if he was injured or something and went after the company and won millions of dollars and bought this house? It’d be a brand new lifestyle for him.
What if he… had a taste for this kind of life because he was a moving guy in Canada. What if he moved furniture and appliances and after a few years seeing the inside of rich homes he has been dreaming of someday living in one himself. Yes!
MY SEARCH: Canada Moving Company
Waterloo moving company is where my character worked previously. This company is a Canadian moving company but the do moves from Canada in America and America back into Canada. My character drive from Canada to Florida moving a customer into a home in Myrtle Beach.
Now I know a bit more of this character’s story. I can ask more of the important questions:
What was his life like back in Canada?
Was he running from someone?
Had he just gotten out of a bad relationship?
Was the law after him?
So now I know some crucial information about my character including:
WHERE he lives. WHAT he does.WHY he’s in Myrtle Beach. HOW his life has recently changed. I have an idea of WHO he was before. At this point, once I start writing with the info I’ve discovered about my character there are several personality and character traits that will come alive as literary breath is given. Another way to jumpstart your creative mind when it comes to giving your characters, well character, is to browse through your social media newsfeed and check out the lively characters that are your friends.
There really is a story everywhere. In fact, nearly every product advertisement uses pictures of people, trying to capture emotion, trying to sell us a story. Why? Because pictures tell us a story, they make us feel an emotion. If a company can convey positive emotions (intimately associated with Happiness) to us, making a link to their products, they have a much higher chance of customers being interested. Everyone does it, I wrote a short story two weeks about a woman, after seeing a photo on the Cambridge Laboratories website. It was like she ran right out of the photo asking me to join her on a jog into the future. So I did.
I hope that this post has given you some new ideas, and maybe helps you save a few dollars at the same time.
If you have any creative ideas you’d like to share. Feel free to email me at Sam@SamTheWriter.com
Cheers to you,
May 5, 2015
SippingOn Literary Espresso
by: Samuel Connelly