Getting into the heads of your characters, especially your protagonist’s, is the name of the game for all good fiction writing. Time now for some tips for those of you who are writing prose fiction. (But if you’re very, very smart and read closely, all you TV writing peeps will benefit as well.)
by Rita Karnopp
Your primary character’s point of view can only be real if you empathize and understand them inside and out. You want your reader to see the story through the eyes of your character.
We get to know our characters by asking them questions . . . like you would a new acquaintance or perhaps a new family member you’ve never met. So what kind of questions can you ask that will give you the understanding you need to get to know your primary characters?
- Do you believe in marriage?
- Are you inclined to believe man is destroying the world?
- Do you have a good relationship with your parents?
- Were you ever married or have you had a serious boyfriend/girlfriend before?
- Are you angry about any issue?
- Find out if your character has a chip on his shoulder.
- The list goes on and on. . . .
But remember, not everything you know about your character has to go into your story. You need to know your character so you’ll understand how he’ll answer, act, behave, react, and maybe even defy.
There’s one thing you must always consider when writing . . . and it involves your POV character . . . the five senses; smell, hear, touch, taste, and see. Which of these senses are your weaknesses and strengths?
Does your character notice perfume? That could be important. Does he hear a certain tone/voice annotation that triggers a clue? Does the clamminess of skin reveal anything? Does the bitterness of the wine warn it might be poisoned? Or did he notice the man slip a piece of paper into the pocket of the man in front of him. Perception is key in any story.
Your POV character may have strengths and weaknesses of the senses, too. They could be key to their personality as well. Think about the blind person and his other heightened senses. Use sensory focus to create personality in your primary characters.
What follows in this wheelhouse is intuition – when your character can sense the emotion, anxieties, objective, and fears of others. It’s an extra sense that can create mood and make your protagonist believable. Characters such as cops or doctors who must make snap judgments for the good of others display this sense.