It’s there. In the upper left corner of the vision in your mind’s eye, the character waits. He’s a patient character, because he wants you to take the time you need to describe him just so. He wants to be described so definitively that all your readers will be able to see him clearly. He doesn’t want to be a ghost or a wisp of thought that changes shape for different people. He wants to be as concrete to them as he is to you.
If your character is still a bit of a ghost to you, sit down for a while and get to know him. Find out all his secrets, all his dreams, everything that makes him tick. Then find out more. You need to know everything about him, because if you don’t, how will you make your character real to your readers?
How Do Writers Bring Characters to Life?
First, they write down everything they know. Then, they think of more things, and write them down too. Perhaps they want the character to have a defining quirk. The author writes one down. Then another and another, until after several ideas, one of them comes to life. You’ll know you’ve hit upon the right ideas when your character becomes unforgettable. Here’s an example:
The old woman hunched over her rusty shopping cart, fishing through the black plastic bags as she stood on the street corner waiting for the red light to change. “Hah!” she yelled triumphantly and raised her hand in front of her face, gripping her prize. She slipped the dentures into the canyon of her gummy smile and smacked her lips around the porcelain. The streetlight switched to green and she trundled across the intersection, clicking her newly found teeth in rhythm with the shopping cart’s clackety wheels, ignoring the drivers watching her from behind the safety of their windshields.
In this example, you see several things that make this woman memorable. However, the technique used is action showing her quirks, rather than just telling about them. Use action to develop your characters, because as we all know, “actions speak louder than words.” This is just as true in writing as it is in day to day life.
Enjoy your writing!