Saturday, January 18, 2014

Putting Emotion into words

Whenever I'm at a book signing, I'm often asked how I come up with my characters. How do you make them believable and three dimensional?
I try to write as I see the character in my mind. I try to create a visual picture by whatever means I can. Sometime I think of a person I have known or sometimes I see a picture in a magazine or someone in a movie or something on television. The inspiration can come from anywhere.

Fore example: Johnny Cash's video "Hurt" is a powerful picture of a man looking back at his life and pondering how he could have done things different.

I would use the video as an example how to paint a picture. Look at the expressions on his face? Hurt... regret... hope and faith. They are all there. Johnny Cash was a conflicted and complicated man, who experienced the extreme highs and lows of life and somehow, managed to keep his faith through it all.

The trick now is to transfer this image of a hero or villain or any man nearing the end of his life to the context of your story. It could be a grandfather looking back and thinking about how he would have been rich man if he wouldn't have had kids, or in the case of Johnny Cash... looking back at the price of his fame. A life can be well lived or wasted and full of regrets. It is what it is and we only get one shot at it. Whatever the case, in hind sight we could have always done better.

A believable character is never perfect and has been battered around by life like the rest of us. He has a wrinkled shirt and gets his hands dirty. He helps the old lady cross the street and then beats himself up for not spending time with a lost loved one when he had the chance. He is a saint. He is a sinner.
Getting subtle emotion onto the page is the key.

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