Saturday, May 14, 2011



Lately, I've given you tips on ways to be creative and to write, and today we're going to examine how to build characters for your stories. For me, characters have never been a problem to create because I have all sorts of interesting characters who plague my mind all the time, as I have mentioned to you before. And the nice thing about them is, they show me who they are, so it's easy for me to write what I see, but this isn't always an easy thing to do for some writers.

One thing you must do to be a good writer is to observe all of your surroundings. What may appear to be insignificant to some, is a great deal of importance to me, as a writer. An easy exercise to follow is to sit outside and watch what is going on around you. Make sure you have a notepad or a laptop or electronic tablet with you, so you can write what you see. How are people interacting with each other? From observing their body language, what is it telling you? Are these individuals happy or sad, confused or worried, angry or upset? What type of clothing are they wearing? What do they look like? Are they tall or short? Thin or fat? What kind of features do their face have? What physical ailments do they have, if any? You get the general idea. Just write what you see, and worry about the notes later. Remember, these are your personal notes, so you don't have to make them neat and orderly--all of that will come later. You'd be amazed at what you can learn from just watching people and gain a better understanding of the human element.

When you're alone at home, you should open a window and sit, with eyes closed, and listen to what you hear? Are there birds chirping? Do you hear cars driving up and down the street? Can you tell the difference in what type of vehicles you hear? SUV or car, possibly a motorcyle or bike? Is the engine noisy or is it smooth and quiet? Do you hear children? If so, are they yelling, laughing or screaming at one another? Can you tell how they are feeling from what you hear? Do you hear leaves scraping against the ground? Is it raining, and if so, what are the sounds you hear? After you've sat for about five or ten minutes, write down what you heard. Again, these notes will be used later.

After you've completed the above exercises, you need to have some kind of idea of what it is you would like to write. If you're not sure, it's okay because this is why you took the notes. When I try to write something and not sure what I'm going to write, my notes are like a Bible to me. I use them to build the characters I plan to create, and the more you use your notes, the better you will become at creating interesting characters for your stories, and the nice perk about that is sometimes it will open your mind and a story will almost create itself without you having to put forth much effort. Before you know it, you have a general outline for the beginnings of a novel.

What I just described to you is exactly how I wrote Silent Knight. I had no idea where that story was going or where it planned to take me. I wrote down what my characters showed me, and when I examined my notes, I was lost. I literally sat at my desk, with fingers brushing the keyboard of my laptop, and Silent Knight just fell out of my mind. I was shocked because I really didn't plan to write exactly what I wrote, but again, you get the idea.

I can't tell you how many times when I'm out and about and see things happening between people, my husband will say to me, "I know that will end up in one of your books one day." I usually smile and think to myself, he's absolutely right. Each night that I sat down to write the novel, I would laugh at what my characters were doing. Creativity for writers takes on different forms, and some of what I say to you may sound weird, but it's how I create. Another key element to creating characters is knowing them. I'm sure I may have mentioned this to you before. I know my characters so well that when I slip up and write dialogue that I meant to use for another character, right away I know it's not something that particular character would say. You need to be as intimate with your characters as possible so they come across as believable, and more importantly, your characters will entrust you with the story you are building.

Some of you may be thinking, "well Kim is talking like these characters are people she personally knows?" The short answer to that is, some of my characters are based off of people I know, so yes, I do know some of them pretty well. However, on the other hand, just observing people and taking great notes, I get to know them--that is, if they didn't pop up on my silver screen in my mind. As I will state again, and I cannot reiterate enough, practice makes perfect. The more you do these exercises, the better you will be. My mind is like a sponge. I soak up as much information as I can and spill it out on the laptop, as soon as my sponge is full. When I go back over to review the last few chapters I've written, I'm always surprised at what I read. It's like someone else is writing the words, and I'm just a book lover looking in.

This is why I stress to you always, you must never, ever, ever give up writing, if it's truly something you love doing or are aspiring to become. Writing is not easy to master, even for those of us who have been kissed with the gift of words. Even your well-known authors have to stay on top of their A-game. You can never learn enough, when it comes to writing. Also remember, it's good practice to read lots of books and see how well-established authors write. I don't mean for you to copy their style, but find books you enjoy, and see how their work flows. That, too, will give you great insight on how to develop and find your own writing style.

As always, stay focused, practice, keep to your writing schedule, research material and do your homework, read, read, and read some more, and when your sponge is full, release it onto your computer and see where your story takes you. Writing is meant to be enjoyable, so most definitely have fun with your characters and storylines! Remember, Peace, Love and Write ON! Writers.

Kimberly Ranee Hicks, Author/Poet