# 5 Characters – Part 2
Detailing ‘Em – or Sketching
This can be fun … and sometimes this can be painful!!
Fun because you get to spend a lot of time with the characters you create. Painful because at times these creations of yours refuse to speak to you!
I know there have been times when I’ve wanted to throw something heavy directed at Joshua Grant’s head – a character from one of my stories, called ‘Suits Me!’ (which isn’t really what I want to call the story– but I need something to work with!).
Anyhow – Josh as I say is rather moody. He is by nature a confused chap – very indecisive. Upto a point it was okay for me to think of him, picture him, and imagine him. But then, Josh didn’t go much further. For chaps like him – on the face of it, look superficial. At the time, I was new to writing and was researching material on creating characters and how to make them fuller, meatier.
There was a neat trick – Interviewing your character.
It meant I’d put Josh in front of me and ask him questions, and Josh should answer.
Me: Josh, your full name, please?
Josh: Are we in court? I’d clarify that I haven’t done anything and whoever said whatever I did is lying.
Me: Josh, your full name, please?
Josh: *looks at me closely* Ah! I see! You like me, is it?
Me: Do you even remember your full name? Or is last night’s hangover still on?
Josh: *offended* Joshua Grant, I remember very well.
Me: Your age?
Josh: You ARE interested in me! Just say so, sweetie, I’ll tell you all about me.
Me: This is not going anywhere! Get lost, Josh!
You see how Josh works. I had to add another angle to this. I contacted his family and friends.
Me: Mrs. Grant, how would describe Josh, your grandson?
Mrs. G: If you hadn’t added ‘your grandson’, I’d still have known Josh, my dear.
Me: *can’t believe this* Okay, how would you describe Josh?
Mrs. G: *feeling pride* Ah! My grandson!
Me: Yes. Describe him.
Mrs. G: A very handsome and an equally confused man.
Me: Good statement but I know that. Anything else?
Mrs. G: He’s the last one of the line and I want him married, but there are issues.
Me: Like what?
Mrs. G: He’s dated half of London, and the other half has heard the stories!
Me: I know that too. Anything else?
Mrs. G: Do you like him too?
Me: *gives up* I need someone from a different family!
These two helped me see how the grandma and grandson were, how they thought, how they behaved. Those two statements about Josh by Mrs. G were nice and I have actually used them in the story.
Then I got Clay – Clement Davis, Josh’s only friend.
Me: Hello, Clay. A word about Josh?
Clay: One word? Erm…
Me: Thank you. That works!
Clay: *laughs* I know what you mean. He’s confused. But he’s not a bad egg.
Me: You’re a very good friend, Clay.
Clay: I mean it, Josh isn’t a bad egg. Maybe a cracked one, but not bad!
Me: Josh calls you his Good Samaritan.
Clay: That’s because I happen to get him out of tough ones.
Me: Is there anything you dislike about him?
Clay: Dislike is a very strong word. There are things I don’t like – but I shan’t say I ‘dislike’ them.
Clay: I wish he’d be more stable in his decisions.
Me: Any particular area?
Me: What’s the issue there?
Clay: Won’t you say 21 was a touch too many? Or 22 rather!
Me: Do you agree with his latest decision?
Clay: I would if he’d stick to it.
Me: Would you tell him you agree?
Clay: *smiles* We both know the answer to that. I definitely would, but no one lets me. Including you!
Me: If I let you speak Clay, that’ll be the end!
So, we were talking of Josh, but I also get to see a lot of Clay here.
Interviews are one of the very interesting and fantastic ways of delving deeper into a character. They are not only insightful, they give a dialog level sensitivity to the character – that is, you get to see how this character talks, what words they use, what’s their tone, and their attitude towards the conversation subject.
Another useful bit is in Naming the character.
This requires some research some time – into the name databases. It is easier these days with the internet.
I had started with finding names that seemed to fit the character I was writing. Any name that seemed to agree with the person, their stature, their general personality.
However, then I started to write a fantasy. Now I needed names that would not be the usual names. Either I could make up names (and I was not good at this. The names I made were weird of the serious variety) OR I could hunt unusual names. But then, just on the basis on their being rare, I could not name the character.
That’s when the KI – the Key Identifier (that we discussed in the Part 2 of this series) – came into play. Instead of searching names, I started to search the meanings with names. And names from several languages of the world showed up. Wow!
I had names like: Cybele, Charisse, Faylin, Asta, Kyros, Estrallita, Aleda – I was one happy Dudette! (that’s a name one of my very old pen friends gave me.)
In trying to find good names for this story, I realized that naming the character was a crucial part of character definition. The name is one of the first things about a character that becomes known to the audience, and they may form a mental image of the character beginning from the name.
Thereafter, there hasn’t been any character who’s been names just because – there’s a reason and rationale behind every name.
This is – I think – the MOST beautiful part of story-telling – whether it is before writing or during it. It’s my favorite part!!!
However, even though it is interesting, care should be taken that this doesn’t stretch beyond need,, because this has a tendency of going on forever – it is seemingly endless if not watched.
Visualization is what brings the character to life. This is what I see in my mind when I see the character, or a scene, or a place or an interaction.
For example, when I picture Joshua Grant, I see in my mind what Joshua looks like.
I see his body structure, his height, his hair, his eyes, his skin color.
I see his usual body posture while he sits, stands, walks, drives, talks.
I see where he lives: the street, his house, his room, his favorite part of the house, his favorite chair, or TV show or whatever.
To what level I see this for any character, also depends on the story.
For example, for Double Bind, Ian Maxwell’s house – the Maxwell Manor – is an important tool in the story. It is the condition of the house when he moved there, when the story starts, and as the story proceeds – that plays a key role in showing Ian and bringing him out.
So when I see Ian Maxwell, in addition to seeing him – the person – it is also important for me to see his house, his room, his library, his car.
Now, seeing it in your mind is one thing. Being able to save the image is a totally different ball game. If you want to store and save something, trust me, the mind isn’t made for it. Especially my mind – it works splendidly as a sieve.
I picked up a terrific trick from a fellow author whom I used to know about 12 years back. Bless her!
She’d go ‘Google’ on everything.
So, I hunted down manors and mansions, till I found one that pictured near to perfect what Ian’s house looked like.
Did the same thing with his car, his library, his woods.
I repeated the exercise with other characters.
My author friend also used to hunt up people – actors or models – who’d look pretty much like she’d imagined the character.
What this does is – it brings up the images in your mind before your eyes. They become remember-able and relatable. Till the Maxwell Manor was in my mind – my sense of direction was very poor back then – I forgot what wing he lived in, right or left! And going by the story, this was important for me, if not crucial. I’d have to put myself in the Manor in my mind and use my arms to go … okay, this is right because I write with this hand; Ian lives here.
You can’t believe the stack of images I have with me of Maxwell Manor, Shefford home, Ian’s car, Ian’s woods, the lake within the woods – the whole area. I even have images to show me what Ian’s estate looked before revamping and after it. I needed to relate to it so that Ian could relate to it.
And I have this stack for most stories that I have actively worked on.
The task becomes more daunting, and more interesting when the story isn’t set in the current time. One of my stories was set in 1800s. OMG! I had to research their clothes, their hairdos, their vehicles, their what-nots!
But – because this is SO much fun – the danger is that it can carry on forever.
For example, I can drive me mad if I go in search of Ian’s bed, Ian’s bathroom, Ian’s clothes, Ian’s shoes, Ian’s chair, Ian’s whatever!!
We need to visualize – but we don’t need to overdo it.
That’s it for now!
Catch you around in the next issue – till then, cheerio!