January 3, 2020– I’m sure that we’ve all had an excellent rest and a fantastic holiday. Time spent with family and friends is never wasted, especially if you’re a writer. We’ve all been there, gathered around the dinner table, enjoying a meal with our family when all of a sudden, our great uncle Larry decides he’s going to regale us with a hopelessly inappropriate story of when he was young and reckless. As your sister ushers her kids away from the dinner table and says a silent prayer that they didn’t hear about that time in Reno, I hope that you’ll keep your ears open for writing GOLD. Here’s how your writing can be inspired by the people around you!
1) Listen. Does great Uncle Larry speak with a German intonation, or does he pause for effect after every sentence? Does he swear a lot, a little, or not at all? Does he speak fast or slow or a combination of the two? Is he monotone and boring, or does he command the room? The way someone speaks tells a lot about them. The same goes for the characters you create; it shows their education level, their level of openness or closed-mindedness, it can show your reader which part of the world they’re from, and it sets the tone for who your character is.
2) Watch. Look at great Uncle Larry’s mannerisms as he speaks. Watch his body language and how he gestures. Is there a character that you can model after him ever so subtly in your writing? Are there things about his personality or the way that he tells stories that will make your characters more interesting? Maybe it’s how he raises an eyebrow or how he shakes his fist at the ceiling. Perhaps it’s how he leans forward or backward in his chair while reminiscing about the good old days. Is there a deep crease in his forehead from years of worry, or does he have an epic beard? Whatever it is, take note because gestures, body language, and appearance help develop your character more thoroughly. We don’t want to read about wooden people who just sit there like untouched dolls on a shelf. And remember not to describe their physical traits so much that the reader gets bored or loses interest. We comment on the remarkable, note-worthy things about our characters and leave the rest up to our readers’ imaginations.
3) Combine. Does your Aunt Edna roll her eyes every time great Uncle Larry tells his story? Does she fold her hands or throw them up in the air as if to say, not again! Does your mother fiddle with her left earring when she’s uncomfortable, but trying not to seem rude, while deep inside, she’s hiding a burning rage that tempts her to tell great Uncle Larry to shut the hell up? Combining character traits help deepen your characters and make them seem more realistic. Don’t go overboard, or you’ll end up doing the exact opposite.
Inspiration is all around us always. We just have to be aware of it, and as writers, I find that we are the most observational people on the planet. Keep a notepad close; your family and friends are a character development goldmine. X LLB