Breathing life into your characters is one of the most challenging, yet frustrating things we have to do as writers. I love it when the character you create becomes like a real person to you. I especially love it when they become real to the reader. A woman actually threatened me once (she was joking, I think) after reading three-fourths of a book and getting to the part where the male lead gets shot. She shook a finger at me and said, "Michael had better not die." Lucky for me, he didn't.
I remember the first time one of my characters came to life. Nineteen at the time, I was working on my second novel, sitting on the couch with the typewriter on my lap. Two brothers were fighting. Matt had been possessed by an evil spirit, and Mason had a talisman that was supposed to help free him. Mason did what he was supposed to do. My fingers flew across the keys, moving faster than my mind. Before I knew it, Matt had taken over the scene. He only pretended to be free. Once Mason dropped his guard, Matt attacked him. I stopped writing and started laughing out loud because it was crazy. I remember my mom asking me what was so funny. When I told her, she gave me this look like she thought I'd lost my mind and said, "You're the one writing the book."
How do you create a character who springs off the page and becomes real to you and to the reader?
You need to know them. You need to live in their skin for a short period of time. But how do you achieve this? I've been asked that question dozens of times. Hopefully I can answer it in the next few articles. We'll start with goals. Everyone has goals, both short and long-term. In my next post I will talk about giving your characters realistic goals. Happy writing!