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Monday, December 13, 2010

Hi, Ho, Hi, Ho - 6 Character Mines

Characters populate novels, short stories, jokes, etc. Where do writers find them? Everywhere. The world around us is populated with snippets of character that spark full flying ideas. Here are 6 places to uncover a cast of characters.

I'm just not that interesting - OH, but you are! Your life is fraught with your perspective. And from this, you can draw a host of character puzzle pieces. The crazy uncle, the tee-totalling aunt with the hidden Scotch, that family vacation gone wrong, Christmas with the whole fan-damily. There is an endless supply of ideas from the people in your life. Get out your pick axe & start scratching.

Stranger Danger - Not too long ago, I took my mom-in-law to the doctor's office. Writing book & highlighter firm in my lap, I happily studied along. And then, out of the ether, 2 of the ladies behind the counter began talking. I didn't pay attention at first, and then one of them said, "Her little legs were pumping so fast, flames shot off her heels." Wow! Perfect strangers, to me, carrying on about who knows what. But, I whipped out a pen & paper & wrote it down. Why was she running so hard? Who was she? Where was she going? Sports, in trouble, danger; what could it be? No pick axe handy, I plotted the land to be excavated.

Hey, I know you - Brothers, sisters, spouses, friends - all the peeps in our coop. I'm not suggesting a character study of your hairdresser, but there are events that deserve a little more investigation. Problems arise when we try to dictate the happening rather than allowing it to spark an idea that grows far beyond the person it happened to. Mine events, not your loved ones.

There's this great analogy - I've never killed anyone, but I've hurt people's feelings - intentional, unintentional doesn't matter. The result is the same. I took something that I can't give back. And, from that I can imagine why someone would murder another human being. Why revenge is cold porridge. How a person works to make amends. See, no Colonel Mustard in the library with the knife; but I can dream. Utilize the mining tools, find the situational commonality & from there a character will emerge.

Yeah, I don't remember that - If I have learned anything in this life, it is the universal truth that distance alters perspective. Events from my childhood are simply that, but the host of experiences garnered along the way mold & reshape those. My perspective changes as I grow. Characters start out in Crapville, work their way down the gilded highway, only to emerge in Happy Place, Alrighty Town, or back in Crapville. There are rare gems deposited in our memories; extract at will.

I create my own reality - Whilst traveling down memory parkway, take a minute to stop & investigate the events. Walk around them, feel them & then take them out of context. For instance, in college, I met a really super-smart gal. We became good friends. We had several classes together & thus developed a competition of sorts. Grade comparison ensued. What made us do it? That is the beginning of character development. A driving need to win, to be smarter than, to prove something to ourselves. Anyone of these provides some interesting characters, traits & goals/motivations. Blast the memories to smithereens only to create newbies.

Characters abound. Writers mine for the right one - natural gas, coal, diamonds. We fashion them from the raw to the exceptional beauties they are.

Happy Mining,



  1. Funny how our minds were on the same track today. Enjoyed your post and can see you in that doctor's office with book and highlighter at the ready.

  2. I love the idea of mining characters--great post!

    (Now the Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go song is stuck in my head . . . LOL.)

  3. KK,
    When I read your post, I almost considered the hive mind - lol. My highlighter is my friend!

    Blog with intention, right?? Too bad I couldn't come up with a 7th dwarf - although I am a little sleepy....


  4. I find them everywhere too :) that's why I wonder that IF my story takes off and I technically can write 'full time' would I? I draw so much inspiration from all the people I see every day :)

    The Arrival, Book One of the BirthRight Trilogy. On Amazon 1.1.2011

  5. Nicole,
    I know what ya mean. And, here's what I can tell ya from the writing full time perspective - You Must Get Out of the House!! I find this most important & so I volunteer to take my mom-in-law (2nd favoritest person on the planet, btw) on all her appointments, shopping trips, etc.

  6. Moving so fast flames came from her heels ... after that image, the rest of the blog was a blur.

  7. oh, good stuff. Another bleep and I were discussing all the different places we "borrow" from to create a unique character. Several different friends, our imaginations, strangers...

    all good! Thanks~ :o) <3

  8. Hi, Patti,

    Interesting ideas. Overheard conversations always provide good fodder for storytelling. Trolling through my memory sounds like a great idea.