Getting to Characters
By playing Lady Blue for many years, I became too comfortable with writing her – to the point where I had “blinders on,” and could only see one point of view and only her perspective. However, when you read a book, you’ll notice that what makes the main character well rounded is how they interact with their environment and with the people that they are around. There is a difference between a character like say, your typical Grimm’s fairy tale Snow White, who is, to be quite blunt, your flat, stereotypical helpless female distressed princess type. No need (or desire) to get to know more of her. …and your Hannibal Lecter, Silence of the Lambs murderer, whose speech will send chills down your spine because you can feel that cold, cruel brutality beneath his words.
I’ve found that authors who write really compelling stories that catch my interest will have very well-rounded, three dimensional characters who interact with well-rounded, three dimensional characters. These characters feel, they have a “persona” to them, and when you put them together in an environment, you know things are going to happen! How do we get to their essence?
I have been asking this question a lot as I try to figure out Temari’s character. She’s familiar enough that I don’t have to take the time to scratch my head too much, but she’s got a lot of bits to her that I’ve not figured out yet.
One way to get to know your characters (and yes, I say characterS, because even in RP, what makes your writing compelling is that you’re writing in a WORLD, and not just on a set with a green screen with one person) is to interview them!
Laurie Campbell writes a GREAT post on her blog, Autocrit, with regards to getting to know your characters. I highly recommend reading her post! Below, I use her “Basic Inventory” set to help me get to know Temari better. Enjoy!
Character name: Temari Evans
Personal history: (this is what she believes is true, although in her actual backstory, it is not).
I was born in Vietnam and adopted by a couple in the U.S. My mother was Thai, and my dad was a mix of Italian, German, and Irish. It’s why my last name is Evans. They died three years ago in a car accident, and I guess, because of that trauma, I had a stroke. It put me in a coma for a year, and it’s taken me about two years to recover. I still can’t remember my past, but my guardian, Absalom, has been so kind to teach me about it.
About Absalom – he is apparently my dad’s only living distant relative. Before my stroke, he was a writer and psychologist, but he’s spent a lot of time trying to get me back to where I was. He didn’t know about me until after my parents had passed. So, all he could really tell me about my parents was their names. Nothing more. It’s okay, though. I now have a lot of memories of Absalom, and he teaches me so much!
I’m five feet tall, and 22 years old. People tell me I act younger, though. It could be because of my stroke, but I’m not sure. I mean, how SHOULD 22 year olds act?
I’ve got the look of a typical Asian, I guess? Lots of people mistake me for being Korean, or Filipino – although most think I’m Japanese because of my name! I’m not even sure why I’m called Temari, either, but… you know.
I like going barefoot when I can, because I like the way the ground feels underneath my feet. Also, I like being comfortable – so lots of t-shirts, jeans, sweatshirts… you know. Typical college gear, I guess?
When I woke up from my coma, I remember being able to think, but not being able to find the words for what I was thinking! It was a weird time, and Absalom read so many books to me! I can read again, but sometimes, my mind still gets really tired. Numbers really get to me. I mean, I can like, I get a visual in my head of them? But the actual name, sound, or picture of the number – it’s sort of hard to translate, so I have to think very hard on that.
Absalom taught me to paint, and it’s really helped me express a lot of the words that I could feel, but could not say. I’m not a great painter, but I do like it.
I’m also good at thinking, I think? Only because nowadays, I have to do it so much. But, sometimes, my head gets like, ‘stuck’ on things, and so, I have to think things out very carefully, and Absalom says that can be a gift. Just, I have to be conscious of it.
I have a lot of trouble with time. Meaning, I don’t have any good sense of it, and things pass, I could be standing there, not even realizing an hours past when it just feels like an eye blink to me. Likewise, a minute could feel like forever. So, I have reminders on my phone, for when things start and end, since I’m still developing this.
Also, when it’s something hard, like, trying to figure out money, or looking at numbers involving something, it can take up all of my concentration. I end up forgetting other stuff, and people sorta have to remind me. I’m getting better at that, but… now that I’ve moved out to an apartment on my own, I have to interact with a lot more people. That’s when it can get super messy!
The other thing, and these are the worst, are my migraines. When I have my migraines, I am in so much pain, that I wish I could just shut down – and normally I do! They don’t happen too much, but when they do, it’s like getting your head hit with a baseball bat while wearing a bell over your head. Not fun. So not fun!
I rock and bounce on my heels when I get stressed or excited. Sometimes, I bite my lower lip, or I squeak. Oh, and I also giggle a lot, laugh at really inappropriate times, and I blush. Sometimes, annoyingly so!
You will almost always find me with my dog, Bear. He’s my assistance dog, and sometimes, when my brain sort of freezes, he nudges me to remind me. Bear can do practically everything, and probably would, if he had hands for paws! He’s my best friend.
Perspective on sex and feeling about the opposite sex:
Mmm…. I…don’t know? Right now, I don’t even think this is an issue for me. Like, I just want to get back up on my feet, finish college, and then see the world. People who are all about dating, or those melodramatic, “Oh, I’m just so incomplete without someone!” need to get a life and go figure themselves out first, before they find someone, is what I think.
I mean, maybe that’s what I mean. That stroke…it took a lot of parts of me. I lost a lot. But, Absalom and art have taught me that just because things get taken away doesn’t mean that you are broken or incomplete. Sculptures begin from blocks of stone, you know? …and in order to make it into something better, the artist had to chip things away from it. In fact, in that case, chipping away at it made it more complete! So, I sort of feel like that. I’m working on myself, first. Then, when I’m done? Then I’ll worry about what’s next. I don’t have the brain power to figure all that now!
I get scared, and I get lonely a lot. That’s when I call Absalom, and he helps me get through it all. Now, being a little more independent, I often find that I’m not as confident, and I’m afraid of making a lot of mistakes. I guess, in terms of emotional needs, it’s really helpful to hear that everything will be okay, and that I’m okay, you know?
My biggest disappointment right now? It’s that I can’t remember anything from before my stroke. I mean, sometimes, I try. Sometimes, I get these like, “ghosts” or fuzzy images that I think were my past, but then it’s usually a bad sign, because then I’ll get an awful migraine. So, even though I try to remember, I almost associate the trying with the pain. It’s not good. Like, I am supposed to cry, right? I should feel very sad that I’ve lost my parents, and my past. …but I can’t.
What’s this character’s goals?
To live on my own!
To… I dunno… make my guardian proud of me. ^.^
What strengths/talents/heroic aspects will help this character achieve their goals?
That part… is an interesting one. Without the story, I think, being able to embrace some new abilities that are hidden behind my migraines. To become a healer, and to be able to speak to the spirit and dream worlds.
Why will the reader sympathize with this person right away?
I’m warm, and I’ve got a quirky sense of humor. Although I don’t want people to feel sorry for me, I want them to know how determined I am to get back up on my feet. Like, that’s super important for people to know – that I’ve got flaws, but I’m going to fix them!