MAKING MY CHARACTERS REAL

Ever heard of the art course called Drawing On The Right Side of The Brain? I had the great fortune to take it a few years ago. In it I learned that the left brain sees things presumptively, e.g. “oh I know what an eye looks like.” But the right brain sees shapes as they actually appear in front of it. So the trick in drawing is to turn the left brain off (turns out a great way to do that is turn things upside down), so the right brain can drive the process. Cool huh?

SO HOW DOES THAT APPLY TO WRITING????

Here’s how it worked for me. I had put in many, many hours listing various attributes about my main and 3 primary characters. I knew how old they were (down to giving them birth dates), I could tell you what their favorite foods were, about their weaknesses  and how they felt about the significant people in their lives. But somehow when I wrote about their feelings it still felt like I was using my “oh, I know how a girl reacts when a boy kisses her” mind rather than really seeing how these particular, unique people experienced things. It was a frustration that sneaked into my thoughts regularly.

Well I guess The Muse felt sorry for me, because one day, OUT OF THE BLUE, while on a walk it occurred to me that because I am such a visual person (after all, I am a filmmaker), I needed to SEE these people, really live with them, to fully KNOW them.

I rushed home and spent 2 days combing the net for images of key aspects of my characters’ lives, including photos of how I pictured them, the specific harmonica my protagonist plays, her favorite stuffed animal and even the neighborhoods I saw her living in. It was a revelation! Especially when I strung the photocopies across the wall around my desk.

Image

So everyday, whether I am writing or not, they are with me. They are my friends now. And when I’m stuck, I don’t have to rely on my left brain to tell me about an archetype but I can look up and see them there, asking me to see them, REALLY SEE THEM.

And I do. And I know my writing has grown as a result.

What works for you?

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