When I hit writer’s block, seven times out of ten it means I didn’t know my characters well enough. If I knew my hero, I’d know exactly what he planned to do next. If I knew my villain, I’d know exactly what he’s been up to in the background.
So maybe it’s time we writers asked them to dinner.
I mean it. Pick out a restaurant. Do they like classy environments? Loud ones? Cheap ones? Sit them down. Maybe try for the slow knee rub, see how they react. You might get slapped, but all this helps you understand your character.
In this case, the character is going to be Lise. Let’s take a look–what are her date clothes like?
Oh, boy. Well, she’s got a nice…smile. Or does she? It’s hard to tell with the lipstick. Maybe she doesn’t want people to tell. Let’s start off with a joke to break the ice.
“So, when can I meet the parents?”
Capture the first expression she makes. What are her family relationships like? Even if family members aren’t really featured in your story, it’s important to be aware how they might have affected your character. Lovely Lise, for instance, does not looked pleased.
“In Hell, where I sent them.”
…Uh huh. Change the subject. She’s looking hungrier and hungrier, but she hasn’t touched the menu. Yikes.
“Do you like pets? I’ve got three dogs at home, I could show you pictures!”
Turns out she owns twenty dragons. That she does, in fact, think of as owned. They are not pets. They do her bidding to keep the realm in chaos, and serve no other purpose in anyone’s life.
“Oh. Good to know. Having a hobby is always good.”
Yes, it is. Obviously, she’s not a fan of the quiet life. Chances are she doesn’t keep her Bio 101 notes organized, either. (Actually, is she the right age for first-time college? Or is she a returning student? You’d better ask, age can affect a relationship big-time.)
“Hey, how old did you say–“
“I am a terror beyond the ages. I am the shadow of every hero, the end of every story–“
So that’s Lise! Get out of there before she sucks your life essences dry. If you’re struggling with characterization in a story, or just are struggling with a story period, consider taking your lovely creations out on a date.
Give your heroes (and your villains) the time of day. See what you can learn from a mundane social setting. Or what you can‘t learn–you might need to delve into their backstory some more. Ask every question you can think of, and let your instincts answer anything your date won’t. Happy writing!