There’s always a lot of discussion about characters in writing, as should be. I mean, without the characters, your story is just a long narrative on scenery and background. But hey, sometimes even with characters, your story is just a long narrative on scenery and background. And that sucks.
But maybe your characters are just boring or too predictable throughout your work. Do you, as the writer, really know who you’re writing about? Are they shallow because you haven’t developed them enough throughout the story, or shallow because they indeed, are just that type of person? Do you have any idea about their upbringing, their values that they hold true, or their innermost beliefs? Do you know their favorite expression, hobby, favorite music, or most hated food?
I’ve found an interesting way to find answers to questions like these and likely others that you haven’t even thought about through a fun and simple writing exercise.
Drop those characters into situations that they would never encounter in your story or novel. Put them in scenarios that they would likely never encounter in their real lives. Yeah, I said it. The real lives of your fictional characters. Go ahead and take a minute to think about that one. Because there’s a lot of character development to be had when diving into the real lives of your fictional characters.
Are the characters from your story rural based? Take a few minutes to magically drop them into a Hollywood red carpet event and write down their personal thoughts and their conversations with others at the event. How do they react? What do they whisper to each other? How would they respond to the extravagance, and sometimes arrogance, of Hollywood life? How do they react to the reactions of others to them? You can bet that there will be some basic beliefs and values that come out in those thoughts, conversations and inner reflections from that event. And they’ll help you determine their actions and the reasons for those actions throughout the scenes in your story.
Maybe your characters are top of the line, successful detectives, complete with all of the latest tech gadgets, information processing, and social media skills that help them solve or even prevent crimes. What if these detectives were all of a sudden swept up and relocated to a time period without all of the current technology or sophisticated cellphones? What if these detectives, armed with all of these savvy skills, were dumped into a scenario where people didn’t have or know of such devices? What would those conversations be like? Would the detectives be deemed crazy? Would they have the patience to deal with problems in the old-fashioned way, using old-time detective work and personal interaction? Their acquired and innate personality traits will ultimately determine their actions and reactions, which will be the same traits that are the basis for their actions in your current work in process, both in their work situations and in encounters with others, positive or negative.
These traits, recorded from the unexpected, uncomfortable situations that you put them into are the true traits and beliefs of your characters. Traits that were either acquired along the way or taught to them long before they became a character in your manuscript. You brought them into the reader’s world to share a story about a particular time or event in their life, so it’s your responsibility to show the reader the character’s true personality, which hopefully evokes love, hate, or at least a rooted interest, positive or negative, from your readers.
Which is infinitely better than a reader putting your book down before finishing because of boredom.