by Rudy Wilson
If you are looking for writing help to create a character, here is what you must know: One must, as a writer fall in love with your characters. They must be seen, experienced as real people, entities, souls. I wrote a book once, my favorite, SHINY APALARIS, as the inspiration and the entire story came to me on a bench in Iowa City. As I sat in the sunny side bench alone, I felt a presence as strong as if a truck load of flowers had been dropped onto me, completely unexpected. “She” was as real as anyone else I knew. She told me her story. I wrote it down as fast as I could. Thank God I had pen and paper. She was a soul, and wanted, evidently to tell me her story. I have always believed she had been my sister, as the story involves a brother and sister. It is the saddest story I know, and the point is, it came directly from someone, ‘someone,’ to me. I still feel her presence. Now, admittedly, this was an unusual way to get in touch with a character. Most likely it was a strong urge from my subconscious about a story I want to tell, but it felt as if it came to me from outside.
Usually, we have some story, even some part of a story to tell, and then there are the people we want to use, to write about, to move, to see change and grow and resolve. The experts so often discuss conflict and resolution and it’s true – it’s inevitable – whenever anyone in writing or even in life does anything there are results, and therefore conflicts, and resolutions, not always good. So we have our idea for a story about so and so people and the plot is beginning to appear and we have an idea, an image of characters that we care about, that we need, that we must have to move the story forward. Can you have a story with no characters? It’s done, but there are abstract or obtuse characters somehow, but that’s a separate topic for writing help.
We feel the story, and I believe that once we have an image, an idea, a story, that it’s already done, basically, in the psyche, the subconscious. All we have to do is, in some kind of silence, see it, feel it, find the story and let it roll out and follow it, and our characters are the most important part of how to move our story ahead.
How to create a believable character? We must begin by having some feeling, some knowledge of him, or her, or them. We then feel them, we begin to see and sense them, physically at first perhaps, or mentally. We must begin to know them; to know all about them, even facts we will never even use, but we must treat them and embrace them as real people. As we fall asleep at night, they are there with us and we learn more about them. When we awaken, we might have an image or a detail about them, a mannerism. Mannerisms are important. They cannot be generic mannequins. I once knew a young girl, and I told her I liked her mannerisms. She, funnily, said, “I’m too young to have mannerisms.” But that was a mannerism.
We have to see these people, how they function , how they see the world, how they exist.
That’s the hard part, the artistic demand. How? Simply by doing it. We have imaginations and they live there. We calm down and see, and know them and express them through words and actions. We watch them grow, and get defeated and grow some more and resolve their lives, or fail. We have to somehow be open enough, and honest with ourselves, to sense them, love them, let them grow and exist as we would our children, our creations, as that’s just what they are. Know them, love them, see them, learn who they are and let them go to grow. Then follow them where they take you.