CREATING CHARACTERS FOR TODAY

Wow, that sounds like I might know a whole lot about this subject, doesn’t it? Well, I didn’t, mostly ’cause I’m really not a today character myself. So, it’s important that I figure out how to create people who can live in my contemporary stories. I began with my old friend, the television set. Before you throw up your hands and go away, consider this. Who watches those sit-coms? Not me, or maybe not you. Who are you hoping buys your books? People my age? No, because we don’t have the most money.

Well, backing up, of course you hope I’ll read your book. But more than that, you hope that all those 30- and 40-somethings with all the moolah to buy books can’t resist picking up yours. How will you do that? By creating the type of characters they like to read about living today’s type of story.
There are plenty of genres to choose from, and once you’ve done that, then you need to find the popular shows on television in that genre and watch a few of them for a while. Don’t worry so much about the story as about the character. Listen to the way they talk; watch their body language; see how they dress and comb their hair (or not) and what they like to do in their daily lives. Bring yourself up to date on these things before you create your own original characters. Don’t copy those you’ve seen, but remember specific words and gestures; what they thought was funny and sad. We all borrow from day to day life for our writing, and there’s nothing different in borrowing from what we see on television.
I’m not saying copy. Simply get some idea of what today’s reader expects. We’re all told to read books in the genre in which we hope to write, and that’s a great idea, too, because we see what’s going on in that world. That’s all I’m saying about becoming a discerning television or movie viewer.
Now, I’m very adamant about not using movies or television shows as a pattern for the way you write. That won’t work, because movies and television are all from the point of view of a camera. You must step inside your character and become them, write your story from their point of view. Yes, some writers continue to write from the omniscient point of view and make it work very well, but it takes a lot of years of practice to get that right. And, it’s not the most popular style either.
Most of us will break in to being published by writing in a genre, and most of those books prefer one, two or at the most three point of view characters. Still the story must belong to the singular point of view. In romances, that’s usually the heroine’s; in westerns it’s the hero’s; in mysteries it can be either but usually not both, etc. Once you’ve read some books in your genre you’ll know whether you should stick to male or female protagonist’s point of view.
All I’m saying here is that you shouldn’t ignore any of the entertainment fields when creating your characters. Take note of all of them and you’ll learn what will work best for your stories.
Also, take some time to watch real people, eavesdrop on their conversations, watch their gestures. Sitting at the mall for an hour or so is one good way to observe characters and many times actually find your next hero or heroine. I found one of my romantic heroes in the grocery store, but once I got through with him, he wouldn’t have known himself.
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About veldabrotherton

I'm primarily a writer, but I also speak and teach workshops and co-chair a large critique group. My brand is SexyDarkGritty and that applies to my western historical romances, mysteries, women's fiction and horror novels. After almost 30 years in this business, I still have something to learn and attend conferences to network with other writers, publishers, editors and agents.
This entry was posted in genre writing, point of view, protagonists, romances, Velda Brotherton, westerns, writing characters. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to CREATING CHARACTERS FOR TODAY

  1. Eunice Boeve says:

    Velda, Like you I found a character in a grocery store, and he was the protagonist for gosh sakes. He grew taller, leaner than my grocery store man, but he kept that dark-eyed look, that fullness of face that belied his lean, long-legged body. I nearly fell in love with just the looks of him. :-)Eunie

  2. Eunice, Isn't it wonderful when that happens? We have to keep our minds open all the time, don't we? Thanks for your comment.

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