Some of the greatest writers use the process in this article to an extent. The late Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison wrote in the Forward of her novel Beloved that she had seen the character of Beloved before bringing her to life on the page. Morrison wrote that “She walked out of the water, climbed the rocks, and leaned against the gazebo. Nice hat.”
Before I begin writing or formulating a scenario from which the story begins (the inciting incident), I dedicate hours thinking about who the characters are. I like to think of characters as people who lived entire lives or some variation of it if they’re young. I meet my characters right before the inciting incident to see them as they are, unchanged. This has helped me kick-start countless stories and, by the end of this article, you will be able to apply this process as well!
Perhaps the most important element in this process is the location in which you choose to meet your characters. Some of my characters are trapped in places they cannot escape. I never meet them in those places—dejected places that put unnecessary stress on the mind.
Instead, I free the characters so that I might meet them as they were prior to the inciting incident. Neutral ground—outdoor restaurants patios or amongst the crowd on the Santa Monica pier—is where I prefer to meet my characters. Finding what places are most comfortable for you and your characters is essential. If your comfort place is a cabin in the woods, coated with snow, then take your character and yourself there; if it’s a gloomy 16th-century castle or deserted island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, then to each their own. But make sure your characters are also comfortable because they are people too and, sometimes, they are dissimilar to us. Make sure the place is not too overtly distracting either, as you need your character’s full, undivided attention and vice versa. Once the neutral ground is established, you and your characters will be relaxed and open enough to chat.
Things to Ask when Talking with Your Characters
Before jumping into what to say, I’d like to stress that you should try to avoid speaking with more than a single character at a time. Unless, of course, your mind is trained enough to speak with more, you should avoid mental strain as much as possible. This process could be hugely rewarding if you think of it as a form of meditation and try to have fun with it.
Okay, so you have the best possible neutral location in which you and your characters can freely discuss birth, death, and everything in between. Now what? Well, now the fun begins.
But hold on, you might be thinking, what if we have nothing to say to one another? What if it’s awkward?
Not to worry. Whether a character does or does not speak with you demonstrates who they are as people. Note your character’s gait if you two are walking. Is your character a fast or slow talker? Make note of what diction they employ. What about their posture if you two are seated somewhere? Does your character slouch or are they as stiff and upright as a white picket fence? These are the questions I ask myself before asking my characters anything.
Toni Morrison, in the above quote, said, “Nice hat,” when she saw Beloved because she noticed her nice hat. It could be as simple as that.
If your character is awkward speaking with you that says something about them as much as it says about you. I believe that we learn more about ourselves through the characters we create and meeting them in our heads before the story begins is like meeting a piece within us we didn’t know we had. And when you do begin to write, you’ll feel as though the character for which you are writing is familiar and you’ll greet them like a friend you haven’t met with in a while.
Photo by Tom Miller on Flickr – Some Rights Reserved
Guest Author Bio
Rygell P. K. Arana is a part-time freelance writer based in Los Angeles, CA, and a full-time stay-at-home father. He covers a wide range of topics ranging from politics to sociology and is determined to share, inspire, and educate others. He writes hoping to inspire others to share their light with the world.
Blog / Website: Rygell Patrick Kumar Arana