Thursday, June 23, 2011

I am a Collector

I collect people.

Sound's creepy, doesn't it? But no, I don't have people gagged and bound in the closet under the stairs. I do, however, have mental snapshots of facial expressions, mannerisms, excuses, rationalizations, etc... If you write I'm sure you understand what I mean.

My characters are not based on real people, but the way my main character in my current work has to learn to walk correctly in courtly attire comes from my own experience. Her joie de vivre is based on my daughter's unadulterated joy at simple things like the wind in her hair or lady bugs.  One potential suitor's fickle interest is based on how my father jumps from obsession to obsession, always completely engrossed until he finds something else that perks his fancy. 

I find myself watching couples on first dates, noting how they touch each other subtly, or how they pointedly DO NOT touch. The way attractive women acknowledge flirting or don't. The way older gentlemen ogle, they believe surreptitiously, the younger women. How every eye, even mine, is drawn to excessive cleavage. How I feel when I notice eyes on my cleavage... little details.  When I'm watching a film or TV show, I take mental notes on how the characters interact. How they devaite from their archetypes or don't. Their quirks, the way they stand, fidget, what-have-you... I pay attention to these things.

Then I start to analyze why. Is the couple on their date touching each other because it's expected or because they can't help themselves. Perhaps the ones not touching are more attracted but feel awkward, inexperienced, insecure. Who knows. Maybe the old man ogling the young woman is remembering how his wife used to flip her hair like that when they first met, or perhaps he's a dirty old lech with a bottle of chloroform in his briefcase.

How do you build characters?


Lindz Pagel said...

I collect people too.

This was a practice I picked up when I was big into theater, though it comes in handy for writing too.

We're surrounded by great characters everyday, why not draw inspiration from them? Our characters are people too, after all. :)

Erin Kane Spock said...

When I was into theater, I had a list of questions to create a biography for my character. Things that my never come into play but were important in the shaping of that person. Very Stanislsavkian approach. It's what lead me to use horoscopes.

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