How do you make characters come alive?

How do you make characters come alive? Find the KEY ways to bring out character. What is the person’s KEY physical characteristic? KEY psychological characteristic? The reader does not want tons of background material about your character. Listen to writers talking about character:

“My characters exasperate me. ” Anita Brookner

“You can’t blame a writer for what the characters say.” Truman Capote.

“I don’t say he’s a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person.” Arthur Miller 1915- Death of a Salesman [1949], act I


2 responses to “How do you make characters come alive?

  1. Good words of advice. I am working on character dev. right now and find that I have created a great amount of information. Fortunately for the reader, I don’t plan on writing it all into the novel. I just need the information to become the basis for my character’s actions. If I do it right, you will know the character’s motivations. But therein lies the rub…doing it right!

    btw – nice to see someone working with prisoners. Creative writing might perhaps be one of the best “rehab” efforts around!

    • Kudos on your research work. I’m impressed. Yes, your work will lead to that one KEY thing that will make your character come alive for the reader. And thanks for the comment on teaching writing in prison. I agree. Writing — all the arts — help rehabilitate a person. Sadly where I teach, mine is the only art program. Most prisons have none. The Canadian prison system believes in ‘programs’ — anger management and the like. Beneficial, but not the only tool in the box.
      Appreciate your comments.

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