Oh, the joys of adding a new character into your story. Sometimes I’m on a roll with my typing, and when it comes to adding in a side character, I don’t want to stop. I just want to keep on writing and get the job done. However, that always ends in disaster, and I have to go back and rewrite the scene. You see, it’s not just about what a character has to do in your story. Does he or she do it begrudgingly? Why is this person doing what they are doing? And, most importantly, what is the personality of this character? That will decide if there is a smile, how the person smiles, and gives the smallest of details. Without those details, it’s a dull and dreary story. To bring life to your writing, you have to give life to each character.
I added a lot of new characters into my last novel, and unlike scenery, describing the way they look is not enough. I admit that I struggled greatly with the personality of one of the main characters I threw in. In the beginning, I hated writing out his scenes, and I grew to dislike him. In the end, I got it down, and he plays an important role in the story. Some even say he made that story.
At the end of that novel, I added in more characters, but I was quite tired the night I was typing out the beginning scenes. After a while, I asked myself, “Where is this conversation going?” Because I had not truly thought out the details of the new people, I was just writing. It was dull, and it wasn’t going anywhere. One might consider it rambling.
That’s when I had to step away from the keyboard and think things through. I had to consider the future of each new character, their past, their personalities–everything. I had to truly create–not just add characters into the story.
Yet, here I am again. Last night I started typing out a scene with new characters, and although I had done research on ships and aquatic life to get the images in my head, I had not put a lot of thought into the captain and his crew. I began typing out the scene, but once again, I found myself stuck when it came to the conversation.
Today I had to step away from my laptop. During my cleaning and workout, I imagined each and every character. Where did they grow up? Why are they doing what they are doing? And so much more. I imagined whether it was a forced smile, an easy smile, or was there even a smile. Although their past will not be written into the story, those details will show up in each person. I need to know these things as their creator. It gives the visual, and it leads the conversations.
My advice to aspiring writers is that you need to know your characters–not just the main ones. You need to know them all. Befriend them. Listen to them. And only then will you be able to paint them into words.