By Darlene L. Turner
Ever have an imaginary friend when you were a child? If you’re a writer, I’m guessing you probably did. Confession time . . . I had one too.
Pee Wee lived in our bathroom, and we had great conversations every day. He never failed to give me a laugh and help me with my problems.
Today, our imaginary friends are called characters. We knew it would pay off one day. What I love about these friends is we can craft them anyway we want—their physical traits, profession, who they fall in love with, etc. Creating characters is fun, but can also be frustrating and time-consuming.
But it’s worth every minute.
The more you know your character, the more they jump off the page and into your readers’ hearts.
Here are some tips on how to do make our imaginary friends real.
Visualize them. I’m a visual person and find it easier to give descriptions if I can see something in front of me. For my characters, I pick a person from my favorite TV show or movie and use them as a basis for my hero and heroine. I find a picture and post it on my board within Scrivener. Instant visual! However, be careful not to describe too much. You want readers to form their own image. This just helps me know my imaginary friends better.
Do a background check. Get out your FBI credentials and research your friend’s past. Where were they born? What were they like as a child? Teenager? Young adult? What’s their profession? Nothing is off limits. There are no sealed files in your investigation. Cross-examine and get out the lie detector. Know them inside and out.
Give them a quirk. Your main character needs a habit or trait that makes them distinct. It could be a phrase they repeat, an action they do when nervous or excited, or even an OCD characteristic. Perhaps your antagonist leaves the body in perfect form, ready for burial-hair combed, make-up done, arms crossed and in a prayer position. Whatever it is, make it unique.
Talk to them. It’s okay. Your family understands when you talk to your imaginary friends now. You’re a writer. It’s allowed. Sometimes when I talk out loud, it clears my head and gives my characters more depth. Try it.
Give them a secret. Shhhh…don’t tell it to anyone. Yet. Your friend needs something from their past, helping or hindering them. It forms an arc every character requires, so your readers will cheer them on. But tell their secret at the right time and place in your story.
Make them vulnerable and let them love. Everyone wants to love and be loved, which means our characters need to be vulnerable. Our characters can be stubborn, but at some point they need to open up and take a risk. Give them the chance!
Getting to know our characters intimately will allow our imaginary friends to become real to our readers.
And captivate their hearts.
What tips have helped you in developing your characters?
Darlene L. Turner feels if you have a dream, believe it can happen, and then fly! She writes romantic suspense. She blogs weekly and her current series, Coffee & Conversations with Women of the Bible is fast becoming a fan favorite. Visit Darlene at www.darlenelturner.com.