Creative Series IV: Populating Our Story with Characters
This part of our Creative Series will cover characters.
Characters are a very important part of every good story. Characters are the primary colors of your plot. Without characters, a story can become a lifeless, dull, carcass of a plot which loses the reader’s interest. It is the writer’s job to create interesting characters to populate their story.
Look at the world around you.
Our world is filled with trillions of characters. In my eyes, there is no reason why a writer cannot imagine how to fill their stories with rich, colorful characters. Unless we live in a cave, we have a vast treasure trove of people around us to create our characters. A character can be a neighbor down the street. A character can be our best friend. A character can be the clerk who helps us at the grocery store. A character can be a fellow student in a class.
We can create prejudice for our characters before they open their mouths.
What if our character wears clothing that is one color? What if our character wears clothing that is bright and filled with design? What if our character has a large scar on their cheek? What if our character does not smile? What if our character is always smiling? What if our character wears a worn T-shirt, shoes with holes and blue jeans that are tattered? What if our character wears a black suit, sunglasses and a cowboy hat? What if our character wears blouses with only 2 buttons buttoned? What if our character wears dresses that cover almost every inch of her body? Think about how we can dress our characters to cause certain ideas in our readers…a picture of our characters as the reader sees them out on the street?
We can create personal quirks for our characters.
Our character can smoke. Our character may drink alcohol. A lot of alcohol. Our character might drink mint teas. Our character prefers diet sodas. Our character has a twitch. Our character stutters. Our character includes a specific word when they say anything. Our character holds their head down, never meeting anyone’s gaze. Our character shuffles. Our character walks with a limp. Our character has a cast on their arm. Our character winces with pain…constantly. Our character looks up all the time. Our character looks down all the time. Our character talks to themselves. Our character is very quiet and hardly says a word.
We can break rules with our character.
Think of the character who is meek and mild, suddenly becoming assertive and angry. What happens when we have established a character who wears sunglasses throughout our story, suddenly deciding not to wear sunglasses? Imagine a character who is a bully one day, risking their life for someone the next day. Our characters can change or they can remain the same way throughout our book. Characters can change, just like normal people can change in our everyday lives.
Characters within our stories are like suns in a very large universe.
Characters establish the rules and groundwork in our stories. Like a sun in the universe, characters can have friends (like planets) who revolve around them, caught in the gravity of their personality. Our surroundings can become characters in of themselves. We can create gentle surroundings or harsh, rough surroundings. We can create weather as a character. We can create a physical environment as a character. Our environment surrounds us, binds us together to resist or accept it.
Our story sample.
5 characters will inhabit a house.
Last week, I created a house as part of a story, based on a photograph. Today, I will create basic character sketches as I begin to populate the house with people. For this exercise, I will describe two of my characters with what they wear. I will follow with 2 more character sketches that focus on their physical appearance as opposed to what they wear. My last character sketch will describe a character based on personal quirks.
Character Number One
Joquan emerged from the kitchen. He was always impeccably dressed. From his black leather cap that hung just over his eyes, to his black shoes. Joquan rarely shaved. He preferred to wear large, ornate cufflinks with a gold Rolex watch that just peeked out of the edges of bone white shirts. He wore the most interesting shoes, always a sharp, metal tip at the end of each shoe.
Character Number Two
Ismeralda walked out of the foyer. She preferred to show off her assets with low-hanging blouses and shorts, sheer wisps of material that seemed to look almost transparent in the bright sunlight. Dark sunglasses hid her eyes, while silver bangles hung from her earlobes, their weight so great that they caused the skin of her lobes to stretch dangerously low. Her hair was long, curled in a coif that ended in a point. Ismeralda wore open-toed shoes that seemed to raise her height by almost a foot, the heels clicked and clacked on the hard stone floor of the house as she made her way from room to room.
Character Number Three
Haram came slowly down the stairs. His skin was a deep brown. His hair unkempt and unruly, his thick eyebrows almost came together as one brow. A ragged scar ran from the top of an ear, all the way down to the edge of his chin, while tattoos covered a bare chest, back and arms. His eyes flashed in the harsh glow of the lamp, one eye steel gray, the other an iridescent green. He smiled a toothy grin, many of his teeth brown and dull, contrasted with several teeth that glinted with gold.
Character Number Four
Theresa seemed to waddle out of the bedroom. Her arms were laden with folds of skin that belied heavy weight and years of eating rich, fatty foods. Her face was pudgy, rosy cheeks gave one the impression that she was once a hamster in another life. Her hips and legs were bared today, vibrating with every step that she took. Theresa’s eyes were almost closed, her mouth set in a permanent scowl that seemed to say, “Stay away from me.”
Character Number Five
George mumbled to himself as he reached for the patio door. His shuffle seemed as incoherent as his tendency to sometimes sing to himself, occasionally waving his arms from side to side as he made his way into the waiting boat on the dock. “Flibberty Flubberty,” he stated to himself as he cautiously made his way into the boat. George mumbled to himself again as he brought his hands together to fiddle with his fingers, reaching down to his zipper and pulling up on its extended tab. The boat rocked a bit as George sat down on a cushioned seat that was set into its very center. He rocked a bit, listening to the splish and splash of water that lapped at the edges of the boat. George stopped rocking. He sat still a moment, then laughed to himself as the boat continued to rock ever slow lightly, its hull responding to the waves that gently rocked it from side to side.
Next week: Allowing our characters to come to life with dialogue.