Welcome to the final installment of a three-part blog series (within a blog series - blogception) dedicated to the basics of any novel. Part One was Setting, Part Two was Plot and in Part Three we have characters.
If you've been following along, let's continue the analogy. You've got your stage set up (Setting) and even if you don't or your set designers are on strike, it's okay. You know what direction you're going to go in (Plot) and again, if you don't then that's okay to. Now you just need to find some actors (characters). What's that? You don't know any actors? That's okay. This is going to help you send out advertisements.
As I've said before: there is no set way on how to get your movie, er, novel, started. You can start with characters, figure out a plot then put together a setting. You can also start with a plot, find the setting then make some characters. It's all up to you as an individual.
It completely depends on the story for me. I found about four or five good story concepts while cleaning out my closets in January. All of these ideas had characters and a basic rundown of plot and setting. When I started doing the pre-planning, that is, putting them in my idea list I didn't start with describing the same concept. One idea mentioned the plot. The second idea started with the characters. The third was the setting. The last was a combination of all three.
Again, it depends on YOU as a writer what you want to decide on first. With that being said: don't be afraid to take a plot and setting (or plot and characters, or setting and characters) and run with it. Free writing can sometimes help you figure out one of the missing elements. You can't wait around for inspiration to hit and sometimes have to go with what you have.
Okay. You need actors. Not just any actors, no, these actors are going to have to do what you say and follow along in your story. I wish you good luck. Characters can take a life of their own and it is best to follow along with what they're thinking sometimes. You're asking how we even GET actors, right?
Sometimes they'll come along on their own, introduce themselves with their name, likes, dislikes, personality, backstory, and everything you need to get the novel done. Other times they'll be this blank shadow person who doesn't know how to speak. Sometimes they'll have a backstory but no name or description. Other times they'll be a name with nothing else. It doesn't matter how they appear: you have to figure them out.
The best way to do this is to conduct a character interview. Ask them what their name is, what their goals are, and who they are in general. I know you can't literally sit down with this person but you're a writer. Envision yourself talking to this person, meeting them for the first time, and wanting to get to know them.
That is the key to any novel: making your characters seem like REAL PEOPLE. They might be in the most ridiculously fantastical world, but they still have to come across as REAL. So, how do you make your characters real? You act as if they are real.
They are your best friend (or worst enemy), you know every detail about them, you know what it takes to break them or build them up, and you FEEL when something happens to them. If you don't feel upset when they fail then your reader won't either. If you're not relieved when they've defeated the villain or made it out safely then your reader won't either. Characters aren't just disposable concepts. No, you have to see them as a PERSON or they will always remain two-dimensional and flat.
In summation: if you don't care about them then neither will your reader. It will show through in your writing (eventually) and people will begin to remark on not enjoying your story because of it. You can survive if your setting isn't hugely descriptive and you're on earth. People can fill in the blanks. You can survive if your plot is the same basic concept as hundreds of other books out there and you've tweaked it slightly to be vaguely different. You can't survive if your characters are irrelevant, unrealistic, and unemotional. It won't matter how awesome the plot or setting is because readers will not forgive a flat, unbelievable, and robotic character.
And again, you make them relatable, realistic, and emotional by thinking of them as REAL PEOPLE. Remember people react differently to the same situation and not every character will immediately grab a first aid kit and help the wounded. Some of them might faint. Some of them might throw up. Others might run away screaming. This is especially important when you're dealing with a group of characters and one gets injured.
If you're having trouble figuring out how real people act you can either go people watch for a couple hours on a day off (try not to be the creepily smiling person in the park though, okay? ;) ) or you can read a book with believable characters. Stephen King says it right: "If you don't have the time to read then you don't have the tools to write."
The best way to figure out how to succeed in making real characters (or a good plot behind a great setting) is TO READ. The next best way is to keep writing. Give your writing to friends and family (even online friends) and see what they think. You can't improve if you don't practice and figure out what you might be doing wrong.
Until next time thoughts, comments, rages, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments section.