Over the past several weeks, we have explored the basics of character creation and building backgrounds. I hope by now that we all are on the same page as to the importance of in depth character history in telling a compelling story. Today, we are going to take the first step in using the histories and bringing your character’s to life.
It Is How They Communicate
The number one manner in which people communicate today is the same it has been for centuries, talking. In the present say, that can also include texting or even writing emails, as in this context they are the same thing. How can that be, you ask? Well, no two people speak, text or write the same. Other than fingerprints or DNA, a person’s voice is what makes us all different.
Communication is more than the sound of a person’s voice, though the tone is included in the voice. Voice is the tone, tempo, vocabulary and even mannerisms one uses to communicate. Is the person speaking easily excitable, or do they gesticulate wildly with their hands and arms? Do they have an extensive vocabulary, or do they curse a lot? These are all factors that come together to form your character’s voice.
One of the best ways to examine the differences in people’s voices is a rather simple process many writers overlook. The art of listening. All too often, when we communicate with others we do not actually listen. Instead, we pay attention to what is being said while we wait for our turn to talk. Listening, or rather, active listening is a practice that can greatly enhance your understanding of communication and thus, the manner of your character’s communicating.
Next time are witness to a conversation or discussion (without being too obvious or creepy about it), pay close attention to the conversation and the actions of those involved. Watch how they half listen and find the point where they stop listening and simply wait for their chance to talk. Listen to their voce, tone and inflection as they explain a key point or reach the punch line of a joke. Study the manner in which people communicate so you can apply them to your characters.
Voice is Not Dialog
It is important to understand at this point that voice and dialog is not the same thing, though the two go hand in hand. In order to have effective and compelling dialog, the writer must establish their character’s individual voice. How is this done? Well, it is taking everything we have gone over so far; physical description, character history, experiences and even education come into play. This is where it all comes together.
How to Bring it All Together
This is where the magic happens. You have done all the work in developing your character, now it is time to bring them to life. How you bring your characters together is going to be different, not only for each writer, but for each character.
By this time in the process, you have gotten to know your characters and understand where they have come from. Now is the time to actually make them. Where have they have been and what they have done becomes the attitude in which they communicate. Their education and the lessons they have learned become the vocabulary they will use. Where they were raised determines if they have an accent and what type of accent they will have. It is even possible that your character has been raised poor and now that they are grown, they cover it by dressing as though they are affluent.
This is the actual fun part of character creation. This is where you bring them to life. Use everything you have done up until now to help you in the task. There is no right or wrong in this step, so long as your characters are and remain individuals with their own personality and voice.
Now that we have reached this point, you are almost done with the character creation process. The final step that we will be covering next week is the small, personal traits that each character has to further round them out. So until next week, keep your pens, pencils and computer keys going and write your heart out.