A story is as great as the writer’s love for their characters.  When writers infuse these alter egos with their own lives, the novel becomes important because of this “visceral, under the skin, psychological connection”.   When does that magic moment strike, that moment when a writer can say they are totally in love with their characters?  It happens when  the writer knows more about that character than they do about a close friend or family member.  And that demands a deep commitment to creating a back story, not all of which will be used in the novel.  Have a look at the following list of must dos when creating character composed by Alan Rinzler:

Creating a Back-Story Life

1.  Know how your character speaks. In fact, speak the lines out loud to ensure the words capture an idiosyncratic style, background and accent–different from anyone else in the book.

2.  Have a portrait in mind of how the character looks, including height, weight, skin color, hair and posture. How they smell. Their favorite foods.

3.  Know how the character dresses from coat to underwear, even if it never appears in the light of day.

4.  Inhabit the character’s deepest feelings–both admirable and not, so long as they are authentic and true to the person’s role and experience.

5.  Understand their habits and skills, including special talents, obsessions, fears and aversions, traits found far beneath what the other characters in the book may perceive or understand.

It sounds complicated; it is complicated.  In th end, what are writers doing?  Getting to know themselves?  Finding acceptance and love to define them?  If readers love characters, do they love their creators?  But then again writers are writing about you.

What characters do you love?  Why?

Here are characters I love from Remains of an Afternoon:

“How can I buy you a seltzer if….if you’re holding a knife, psycho-like?  If you put it down, then we can get out of here somehow.”  The knife was suspended like a long metal beak of some robotic bird inches above her head and nobody could make him put it down.  Jane studied him – how he hadn’t changed in the four years she had known him.  Behind the weird bangs and chin tucked in as if trying to keep his neck warm, she saw the rare beauty in his face that was his mother’s.  She had seen a picture of this Mary, the tawny gypsy who at birth had been lodged on a town doorstep half a century ago.  Ricky’s full moon eyes were always glistening and reflecting.  A straight nose like a child’s slide in the park.  A crease in the centre of his full lower lip.  Like Mary’s – the Scallop Princess at eighteen, married at twenty, widowed at twenty-one.  In the old issues of her dad’s paper, before he bought it, Mary was there at the docks with a crowd of people waiting for any remains to return with search teams after the great storm of 1950.  Jane had that photo blown up.  Mary’s face large with disbelief and her round eyes fixed to with abandonment and new survival strategies.  Ricky is beautiful.  Weird and beautiful.  But not angry.  Not naturally.

Nervously, he clutched it more tightly.  “I can’t Jane,” he squealed.  His hand was cold and shaking with fatigue.  Misjudging the width of the blade, he brought it too close to his left hand.  In a micro-second, a fountain of blood squirted from his thumb joint.  The knife crashed to the floor.

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