I’m probably not the only writer in the world who *sometimes* struggles to pop the lid fully open on their character; particularly when it comes to voice.
I’m currently writing a dual narrative piece and my head definitely isn’t thanking me for it. I’ve got one of the voices down. She’s good. But the other? I couldn’t tell you what she likes to say or what phrases she uses because every time I try and write her, I go blank. Maybe she can’t speak, or struggles to express herself. Maybe I’m too similar to her so find it hard distancing myself from her character. I don’t know.
So, *ta dah* I mustered up five ideas for figuring out a character which is still not perfectly sculpted. Hopefully you will find them useful too.
1.A day in the life.
I find it really beneficial to spend the day as a character. I find myself questioning decisions as them. Would they do that? Is that something they’d say? What would they think?
It may seem silly, but it helps me to really focus in on the character, and their differences from the other characters I’m writing. Dressing and eating like them also helps and, when you’re back at your laptop/notepad/typewriter, you should find you’re already in their head and can just start writing.
I had a sleepover with a couple of my writing baes last weekend and we had such a laugh. It was nice to be children for the evening. Obviously, there were lots of adult things about it (we went to Callen’s flat, drove ourselves, bought treats ourselves) but we still danced like loons to karaoke tunes and watched Moana in true sleepover style! And it definitely transformed my writing when I got back at my desk.
2. Mix it up
I am currently writing a dual narrative piece so find flitting between the voices quite difficult. If I’m struggling with one specific voice, I try and write from the POV of another character. This helps me see them from another POV and helps me figure out more about the character, and how others see them. I also find that if I’m struggling with something, by taking myself away from it, it naturally starts to help itself and I figure out a solution when I’m not focussing on it. Sometimes trying to get something to work does the opposite.
3. Change the scenery
Try and put your character in another situation. How do they act? What changes? What can’t change? Take them back fifty years or push them way into the future. How do they react to the world? How do they speak? Are they the same?
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can be a really positive (and scary) thing for your writing. Things you didn’t even realise could happen to your plot might reignite the story and send it in a better direction you hadn’t even thought of. And your character will have to change to move with it. How much do you know about them? And how much has changed?
4. Real life research
Do you know anyone that’s the same age as your characters? Or have any younger children who can read your ideas through and vet them before they make the page? I always find that my mums childminding children’s opinion is the biggest game changer for my writing. I ask for their input on words that are commonly used in schools, what language kids use these days, and whether they like the character I’ve created. They’re very kind, and often tell me if something doesn’t work. But they’re my readers, and pleasing them is what matters.
They often say they don’t understand why a character does something, or says something, so I am able to go back to the page and rethink ideas to be more suitable.
If you know anyone your readers age, why not give it a go?
5. Use your own experiences
I always forget that I was once my characters age, especially when I’m struggling for ideas or conflicts. And it’s a really useful tool to try and combat the blank brain moments when I lose my imagination and can’t think of what my character is going to do next. What did I do at their age? What was my freedom? Where did I used to hang out? Who didn’t I get on with?
Using my own experiences helps me to realise the differences (and similarities) between me and my characters. It helps me get into the head of a child, and picture them doing what I was doing at that age.
Have a go at these ideas if you feel you’re losing inspiration for a character, or struggling with voice. And if you have something that helps you feel in touch with your character and their voice, please share it with me! I’d love to hear it.