If you’re like me, there are times when the words won’t come. You have a story in your head, but as you try to flesh it out on paper … nothing. You hate to even think the words “writer’s block” because writer’s block is like the scary monster under the bed: if you don’t look at it, it isn’t there. So you quick, look away, plug your ears and start doing anything – house work, social media, TV, exercise – to ignore the lack of words.
Not so long ago, I realized that ignoring the issue didn’t make the words come any faster. So I switched tactics. Whenever I felt the cursed “block” start to rear its ugly head, I did an exercise. Not sit-ups or squats, but a writing exercise. Any kind of writing exercise in any genre. I have books of prompts and ideas, but one of my favorites is to take a step back from the story and work on a character sketch for one of the peeps on the pages.
There are countless ways to go about drafting character sketches. My personal favorite is to pretend I’m conducting an in-depth background check on the character. Yes, I’m dorky enough that I like to put on my pretend FBI hat and dig deep into the life of the pretend person I’m creating. I tend to write in narrative form, and I have a template I fill out with basic information (date and place of birth, physical description, family make up, etc) as well as details such as early childhood life – including turning points, favorite teachers and childhood games, old friends. I work my way to the (story’s) present. I include things like favorite books, favorite foods, quirks, quotes, role models… I don’t necessarily do all of this in one sitting, but instead turn to it as I need to, over time.
All of this not only helps me create a character that I truly know, but one that feels realistic because he or she has a “real” background and internal life that I can refer to as needed while I write.
How do you create your characters? I’d love to hear different techniques!