How to Write Authentic Characters

Like mine, a book is never better than when it uses a constant supply of raw source material. For me, the gemstones of content are found in everyday life, by watching people and taking note of the strange things we all do and say.

Some people find inspiration in isolation and nature. Nature does help me focus, but at the end of the day, I find that I’m never more creatively primed than in a place buzzing with strangers.

I love trying to figure out who a person is and where they came from. I see a man wearing a curly mullet and a red tie and I wonder what he was he like in high school; I guess at his profession and the type of woman he might marry.

It’s creepy, I know, but I can’t help myself. As I focus on my chosen stranger, my natural curiosity causes me to surreptitiously sidle closer.

Eavesdropping on conversations is pure gold. I can think of no better way to learn to write rich insightful dialogue. If it’s good stuff, I pretend to journal and take notes.

When I get home, I combine my notes and my imagination and come up with a vibrant, living, breathing character for a story. Now I know this is odd, but the next step for me is to seat my imaginary character down and interview him. I never cut him any slack, I probe for the recessed childhood memories and ask him about his secret desires. Some sample questions might be:

Have you ever stolen anything?

Do you have recurring dreams or nightmares?

What’s your greatest fear?

Who is someone you look up to?

You get the idea… the more questions and answers that I come up with the more interesting my character becomes. I might not use everything from the interview in my story, but it helps me to understand my character’s thoughts and actions.

What do you do?

PS This is a funny article on Eavesdropping I came across: enjoy! Authors get the Eavesdropping Bug

PPS I posted a picture of Farley Mowat because he happens to be my favourite ‘character’ author. I love and connect with his characters finding them full of good-natured fun, hopelessly flawed, and wonderfully human.

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About cjgosling

I paint, I sing, I walk in the rain. I'm clumsy and I love the smell of campfire. My head is full of imaginary things and the only thing I ever really want to do in life is write. My first book "Shadowlands: The Guardian" was released in Feb. 2011. The sequel is coming in 2012! View all posts by cjgosling

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