Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bringing Characters To Life...

Recently I've been doing a lot of things at college, especially dancing.  I'm currently taking 4 different dance classes: Jazz Dance, Ballet, Latin and Improvisation.  Each of these dance-styles are unique unto themselves but also share aspects such as "Core-Building", fluid movements, music, etc.  I enjoy trying all these different styles and how my body reacts to them.  Also, I find how they make me feel emotionally and mentally quite stimulating and refreshing.

Now what does all this have to do with bringing characters to life?  Simple.  To me, a person's life is the sum total of their experiences both good and bad.  How we react, what choices we make, all of these things shape who we are and who we may yet become.  So if a life is shaped by experiences and how they made you feel, how can your characters be any less human than you or me?  But a character is just that.  A made up person with no real past or experiences, EXCEPT for the ones we as writers give them.  In my case, I give some of my own personal life experiences to my various characters.  For instance I've studied Ballroom Dance and gave this talent to two of my characters.  I gave them different levels of experience, one was a beginner the other was extremely advanced and taught others.  Now, I was in no way an expert in Ballroom, BUT I knew people who were and was able to get some insights from them.  I transferred SOME of these insights and experiences to the characters.  You'll note I said SOME of these insights and experiences.  Because unless the main story revolves around Ballroom, why should I bore the reader with pages and pages about that kind of dance?  I give the audience snippets of those insights and the joy and feeling of dance.  Enough let them get more information about this character and what makes them happy and why.

Sad times, losing someone close to me I've also given to some of my characters.  The pain, the feeling of being lost and confused by the experience of someone no longer being a part of your life.  People can relate to all of this and can feel sorry for or commiserate with the character in these situations.  It makes the reader feel more like the person they're reading about is more human, like someone they know.

Hobbies or jobs are another way of making your creations seem more like real people.  They're pet peeves at the job.  Annoying co-workers, friends, what they do off the job together.  All of these help make a character seem more like a real person.  Draw from your own life, give bits of your feelings or experiences to your people to make them more than 2-dimensional caricatures from a comic strip.  Remember, your characters are your children, shape them give them life and the audience will appreciate and love them as you do.