Those of you who’ve read this blog for any amount of time know I value authenticity above almost everything. We’re all insecure about something. We all have issues. What’s the point in pretending we have it all together when none of us do? Any one of us can get that filter and make ourselves look that fabulous. But what happens when we’re out in public without the cameras and people really see us for who we are, giant pimples and all? No thank you. I’d rather you knew the real me right from the start.
I think that desire for authenticity is why I write the way I do. My characters are real to me. They have flaws, real ones, ones I don’t mind displaying to the world. They make mistakes and suffer the consequences for those mistakes. I hate books where the characters are beautiful and perfect—with flawlessly glowing skin, perfect make-up and shining eyes. Completely fake. Completely filtered. Who wants to be around someone like that? Because that’s what you’re doing when you’re reading a book—you’re spending time in that world, with those people.
With all that in mind, the writing lesson for today is this: How to develop authentic characters.
For me, it's watching people. Real people. Truly see them without any filters. I always keep a journal nearby and jot down things people say, expressions on their faces, positions of their bodies. What are they feeling, and how is that displayed? How are they interacting with each other? This has been especially beneficial when I’m in an environment I’m not used to. I worked in a jail once, mainly for this exercise. It worked. Marcus (one of the characters from the Newstead books) has so much more depth than he would’ve had otherwise. Now, I’m not recommending that to everyone, but there has to be someplace you can go that’s out of your element and watch people, pen and paper in hand. Forget Facebook. Where can you go to get the inspiration you need to make your characters real to you and to me?