... Getting to know all about you...
Okay, now I'm going to have that song stuck in my head for a while... (it's from The King & I for those of you who don't know :)) In the song, Anna is a teacher and she's talking about the joys of getting to know her new students.
As writers, we need to know our characters too. And we need to know them even better than we know our spouses, our best friends, our kids, and maybe even ourselves. We need to get right inside their heads and understand all of their wants, needs, hopes, dreams, fears, and everything else going through their hearts.
So, how do we do it?
There are many methods. It's important to find one that works for you. It's also fun to try out what other people do and see if you can use part or all of it yourself.
Character question sheet or a fact list. You can start with the easier stuff like physical attributes, then move into the internal items - what makes your character tick and get ticked off. Or you can make a list of all their favourite things. Or make a list of choices (coffee or tea, gun or knife, summer or fall) and decide which they'd prefer. There are all kinds of these question sheets floating around the web.
Character collage. Cruise around the internet or flip through magazines looking for photos that resemble your characters, their favourite places, outifts they would wear, ... Keep the images nearby for inspiration when you're writing.
Music playlist. Find songs your character would listen to, or songs that remind you of their personalities. Play these when you're writing to keep you in the right mood!
Sketches. You don't have to be an aritst to do this. But sketching what the characters look like can give you insights into their feelings & their personalities.
Backstory. Go ahead and write out some of that backstory and get to know your character. Write about the traumatic incidents in their past that affect who they are today. Write about those pivotal childhood moments that solidified their paths in life. None of it will probably ever make your final draft, but writing it out might make the characters more real.
So which of these do I use? Um... none. Instead I let the characters walk around in my head for a few days or weeks while I focus on anything but them. I let my subconscious take over. The story percolates in the background and the characters become three dimensional. By the time I sit down to write, my characters are real people - at least to me!
How do you make your characters real for you? Any tips to share?