Characters- Part I
This is the first of three short observations about Characters.
When we thought the world was flat no one found it very interesting. But once it was determined it was round they lined up at the docks, signing on to explore the new and different lands promised just beyond the horizon. The same can be said of the characters that populate our stories. Our characters should never be flat. They should have depth and feeling, likes and dislikes. Characters should leave readers with the impression they have lives outside of our stories. Whether primary, secondary or tertiary characters they need form, much like the influence Masaccio had on the art of the Renaissance.
Prior to Masaccio Italian paintings were flat, or idealized images of subjects. He changed this direction by adding perspective and giving weight to the people depicted in his alter pieces and frescos. In other words, they were more life-like. His subjects came alive. Instead of being cutout and glued down to a board they were passing through his life, pausing only long enough to be captured by the artist. Characters in a work of fiction should have this same weight and dimension. They should have lives outside of the pages of our stories.
I have established the main characters in my books, but I look forward to creating the secondary and tertiary characters for each new book in the series. There are a number of fun exercises you can use to develop characters. One of the basics is the Character Profile Form, or the "Dating Site Questionnaire." This covers just about everything you would ever want to know about your characters, and then some. Starting with a basic form you should amend it to your specific genres, adding in any traits/characteristics you may not find on a dating site - i.e. Vampire: yes/no, Ghost: yes/no, etc. It's been years since I was on a dating site, so I'm just assuming newly divorced vampires and ghosts aren't signing up and looking for their perfect matches. Thinking about that now, there just might be a paranormal romance novel in that idea.
The form is very handy. I've seen it suggested this be done for only main characters, but I would recommend following through with all characters. You never know when you would need to know a small detail about a secondary character. This will save you the aggravation of thumbing through all those pages, looking for the sentence that mentioned whether Watson was shot in his left leg or left arm.
Next: Characters Part II- What I learned sitting on a train platform in Worcester.