So last week I said a writer should never suffer from writer's block. Writers that do, do so because they focus too much on the story and how to advance it. This is the wrong approach. In my first post, I said that stories are about people. This is so true, that writing the characters should come before writing the story.
So put on hold that story idea you've been kicking around in your head, and think of a character. Let's use Claire. I think of her as a college student. Maybe she's in art school, but she has some other secret ambition. Hmm, contradiction can often make very compelling characters. Maybe she's a good person, but her mom drank, and she's scared of ending up like her. Like a lot of young adults, she'd like to change the world for the better, but she's not sure how to start. Ok, we have a basic personality, a little background, and a life long goal.
Now let's make another character. Let's call him Bob. Bob can be a little obnoxious, but he uses it as a defense mechanism. He's a college student too, working towards his MBA. He feels pressured to be a corporate heavy weight just like the old man and he tells everyone, including himself, that he wants that too. He tells people how he's going to take over the world. But deep down inside, what he really wants to do is _______.
These two characters might actually get along if both are patient in getting to know the other, but very likely they won't at first. Now, we can put them in a scene together where there's bound to be some conflict and just write what we think would happen. Can you picture Bob saying something obnoxious and Claire being put off by it? Maybe Claire says something idealistic and Bob rolls his eyes at her. We already have some tension. See how easy that was?
One of the things I found useful, I started writing down unusual physical and behavior traits of real people I knew. It can be fun to mix and match characteristics from people you observe or know in real life.
Next week, I'll talk about tone and point of view styles. In the meantime, it's not a bad idea to make list of character sketches, even if you don't have a story in mind to plop them in yet.