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Friday, March 28, 2014

Getting into Your Characters’ Heads

Sometimes a story flows out with ease, but many other times, it’s agonizing. The frustration and misery can come from a variety of sources, but one of those is when a writer isn’t connecting with his characters. Connection mentally and emotionally with the story’s characters is essential to writing compelling stories, but what do you do if this proves difficult?

Here are some ideas:
  • First and foremost, don’t be self-conscious or worry about what others will think. Yes, I know, that’s much easier said than done. But the only productive use for letting your doubt and worry get in the way is if your character is doubtful and a worrywart.
  • Try writing something else for a little while that’s entirely in the character’s point of view. Sometimes removing the viewpoint from the bounds of the story relieves the pressure enough to let you get in touch with the character’s inner workings.
  • Dress as the character. This can be anything as simple as throwing on a pair of strappy heels or a top hat to as complex as a full costume. You could even throw a blanket over your shoulders and pretend it’s a cloak. Costumes and props help put us into the mind of another.
  • Adopt the posture and mannerisms of the character. You may uncover elements of the character you hadn’t realized existed with this one. Of course, exercise some reason. If your character always speeds down the highway, it isn’t worth getting a ticket or endangering others just to practice that character trait.
  • Write about the character from the perspective of other characters. These varied opinions may reveal new aspects that ignite your imagination.
  • Take a single moment in the scene and write it in exquisite detail. You won’t use this piece in the final scene. Well, you might use a few small fragments of it, but not much. Focus on every sensation, what he sees, hears, smells, tastes, how he feels about all this, and his physical reactions. Put as much detail in as you can, as long as it focuses on the character’s perceptions and reactions. This is when you should practice those showing not telling techniques to their fullest. By the end of it, you’ll probably have a much closer relationship with that character.
  • Which brings me to my next point: Ensure that you are showing what’s happening, not telling or explaining. Sometimes, the issue of distance with a character results simply from the author explaining how he feels and thinks rather than showing it through action, reaction, physical responses, and word choice.
What other techniques have you found to connect with a character you’re writing?

1 comment:

  1. This comes at the perfect time for me, Laura. I'm definitely struggling to get into a certain character's head. Thanks for the advice.

    I'll probably try the scene idea, just writing a scene, even one that isn't in the story.

    Another technique I've tried is journaling as the character.