In her book, Creating Unforgettable Characters, Linda Seger advises writers to be on the look-out for opportunities to extract and store details from the people and world around us.
Our stories should spring from reality but be developed through our imagination according to the requirements of the genre we are working in—fantastical creatures as in the Harry Potter books and movies, or straight-forward people as in any drama or crime thriller.
In summarising her Chapter Two on how to start to create a character Linda Seger quotes the writer Barry Morrow who characterises the process in this way: “It’s like shaping a lump of clay, or whittling a stick. You can’t get to the fine stuff until you get the bark off.”
“It’s all about character. Knowing where to begin is half the battle.”
Here is how Seger summarises her chapter:
- Through observation and experience, you begin to form an idea of a character.
- The first broad strokes begin to define the character.
- You define the character’s consistency, so the character makes sense.
- Adding quirks, the illogical, the paradoxical, makes the character fascinating and compelling.
- The qualities of emotions, values, and attitudes deepen the character.
- Adding details makes the character unique and special.
Plots without interesting and unique characters to drive them fall flat – ultimately it is all about character.