People are interesting. I love learning about people—where they grew up, and how they came to form the ideas and ways of life that they did. Sometimes I see patterns of behavior among people, but people aren’t figureoutable puzzles (thanks for the word, Marie Forleo!). They have so many idiosyncrasies and faucets of expression—that as a writer, creating characters out of thin air by comparison, feels almost like creating caricatures. Like, I want my sidekick to be confident, so she’ll swagger around everywhere she goes.
I see so many character forms online—where you list everything about your character, down to their astrological sign. It’s hard to keep all of that information in mind when writing a scene, especially for multiple characters.
The characters that I have who are based, even loosely, on real people are easier for me to envision. Their actions are easier to conceive. Their thought processes and motivations appear clearer. Perhaps I am not living with my other characters enough to fully embellish them.
It has always been more realistic when I imbue a little bit of people that I actually know into my manuscript. Sometimes I use combinations of people. Sometimes the characters aren’t rounded, but appear as I remember someone in passing.
Regardless of whether I pull people from real life, I try to imagine my character’s mood, and personality. When imagining, I try to pull just the things that are important to me into how they see the world. Are they stubborn? How do they feel about authority? How introspective are they? What are their biases?
The main character of my latest novel is pulled from my imagination. When I read his scenes, I often wonder if I’ve made him too boring. I might have to add a little bit of a real life person to spark some life in him…
Here are some good books on character development: