Fun Ways to Dream Up Characters

May 18, 2011

On Wednesdays, I'll cross-post my blog from Routines for Writers here…

My apologies for getting here late today. I had two meetings with teachers yesterday about my final assignments for my final master's degree classes and my brain is FULL! LOL! On the other hand, those meetings and my homework gave me ideas for what to write to you today. I am juggling three different stories for my classes right now. Count them – three! It's a bit overwhelming. So I'm thinking about characters – new ones and old ones – a lot right now. Over the last few days, these are some places I've been finding inspiration.

  • Movies – I went to see the new Arthur as a homework break on Tuesday. (Discount Tuesdays at The Ritz cinema in Randwick – gotta love it!) I wasn't sure what I'd think of Russell Brand, but I knew I loved Helen Mirren and the trailers looked funny. I needed something to make me laugh, so I was hoping. And boy, what a fun movie it was! When I wasn't laughing, I was crying, and sometimes I was doing both! In fact, when I told my friend Rachel about one of the end scenes, I couldn't help crying again in the re-telling! LOL! Movies that do that to me stay with me for a while, and I've been thinking a lot about what I loved about both characters (as well as the cute love interest played by Greta Gerwig). I've got some ideas about how to make my own characters act in such a way as to make me laugh and cry more, and those feelings should flow over onto my reading audience.
  • Books – I'm reading Gone by Michael Grant. It's a YA about the sudden disappearance of everyone over age 14. It's mostly interesting, a bit slow in parts, but the characters are well differentiated. My characters are generally criticized as not being well differentiated so I'm thinking as I'm reading. I don't find all of the characters believable, and the POV is a bit too far away for me to feel an emotional bond with anyone, but I'm trying to think of how to make my characters more different from each other and this book is helping.
  • Friends – Last night I went to Max Brenner's chocolate cafe with some friends for Girls Night Out. On the one hand, we're all so similar – and that's why we get along so well. (There are days when I wonder if Rachel and I are twin sisters from a parallel universe.) On the other hand, of course we're not so similar that anyone would confuse us with each other. At the very least, we have three different accents – Ruth is originally from Germany, Rachel is Australian born and raised, and I'm American. But my target audience won't find it believable if I make all the characters from different countries just to make them different! LOL! Still, under the influence of laughter and chocolate, by the time we ended the evening I'd decided to put my GNO friends in my new book. (Mel, you don't know this yet since you missed last night!) Suddenly, I was thinking up lots of quirky ways my characters could develop simply because a few of them are now partially my friends in disguise. At the very least, it'll help me break through the wall of similar characters I always seem to start with.
  • Daydreaming – These last few weeks I've had a long-recurring daydream in increasing frequency…what if I had a Monica? I've wanted a Monica of my own since season three of Friends. I've thought about putting an ad out this semester – Looking for a Monica, must be happy only when everything is sparkling, will pay accordingly. I am one of those people who live in the uncomfortable tension between hating to clean and hating to have a dirty home. So I daydream about how to find a Monica. Sometimes I daydream about having my own band who will play any music I want, any time I want, live in front of me. When I'm busy like I have been, I constantly imagine how marvelous life would be if I had an Angela Lansbury-like cook, like from Beauty and the Beast. Someone sweet and kind who makes me healthy meals that taste delicious, and who makes sure I eat in just the right way to lose some fat but not my running muscle. Someone who can make anything taste delicious and make it ready at the exact moment I am a) hungry or b) have time to eat. Ahhh…mmm… Oh, sorry, got lost in that one for a minute!

I'm sure you've thought of all of these ways to create or build or differentiate your characters. But it sure was fun talking about it with you! I've never had to work on three projects at once, and I can assure you it's not optimum. But it needs to be done now, and the pressure is possibly helping me go places in my writing that I haven't gone before. That is both a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, the crew of the starship Voyager got to explore space that no other Earthling had seen. On the other hand, they were lost and couldn't get home. That's not so good. That's an unfinished and therefore unpublished book!

But see, if I let my mind bounce around all of these other stories and universes, it will help me get silly and funny and creative in my own universe. I'll let you know what happens!

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