*by a beginner
As a kid, did you watch Cinderella and Prince Charming get married, and wish that your adult life would turn out just the same? I will personally admit that being pulled out of a hum-drum life by a handsome, perfect man who would give me a crown, beautiful dresses and dance with me at balls sounded like the best of all possible futures – when I was 9.
Then you get older, and have two choices:
1. to assume the original writers of Cinderella were trying to make a point about endurance through suffering, ending with (some kind of) reward, OR
2. that the marriage probably fell apart after the first month, OR
3. that the original writers had never met a real prince.
In which case you have to conclude that you can probably write a more interesting story, so long as your characters don’t remain as 2-dimensional as Prince Charming.
So how do you go about injecting human traits into your characters and the way they relate to the world of your story? Making a list of the things you want them to have (a sense of humor, a sense of duty, a lying tongue, a reckless disregard for safety) doesn’t always translate smoothly into writing scenes.
Use the people you see interacting every day as tutorials. Do they treat each other constantly with grace and courtesy? If they spend a lot of time together, probably not. There should be joking and teasing, or co-conspiring. Arguing and even fighting, cutting words and glares of death. You’ll see comforting (whether well-done or just well-intentioned), you’ll see teamwork, you’ll see people having fun.
Often the funniest parts of life are the unexpected moments, the things said in error, the genuine misunderstandings that lead to helpless laughter. Try to find ways to work that into your characters’ interactions. Explore writing exercises that are solely dialogue, or entirely the thoughts of one character. Think of two people you know very well, and put them into a totally foreign environment. Write the scene of how they’d react.
Let your mind wander to the strangest scenarios and the flashiest (or quietest) characters. They probably talk differently, approach relationships differently, and handle the challenges of an adventure in beautifully creative ways. Experiment! Your writing style is always evolving and getting better (don’t doubt it) so get to it! And share those amazing characters – and their stories – with the world!
Katie, signing off
Photo credit to Thomas Kinkade Gallery