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Behind the Scenes

How I imagine my characters pre and post production.

Writers will often say half-jokingly and half-seriously that their characters have minds of their own. For me, that's because sometimes I can't imagine how they'd react in certain situations or what I imagine doesn't feel like it's really true to their personalities. To help, sometimes I'll allow my mind to wander and let my characters be themselves outside the stories. These sort of behind-the-scenes moments are very helpful to me to get to know their personalities.

I find myself asking what Carissa would do in situations that present themselves in my real life. It's fun to imagine how a stern character like Varick would react if the garbage disposal went out on him (he'd probably perform some sort of spell over the sink while commenting on humans' inferior plumbing). As strange as this sounds, we do this with real people in our lives a lot more than we realize.

If you've ever had a poor report card from school, bad news to break to a friend, or a stressful situation like a job interview, you've probably imagined which reactions to expect from the people involved. You likely spent a fair amount of time wondering how your parents would react, whether your friend would be OK, or what questions an interviewer might ask you. The better you knew the people, the better you might have been able to predict their reactions and prepare yourself to face life's situations.

In the same way, writers imagine various reactions their characters might have to scenes in their stories. So why extend their reactions to beyond what might happen on a page? How do we get to know anyone in our lives? We can't get into our friends and family members' minds (and maybe we wouldn't want to), but we learn who they are by how they act. We observe.

In the same way, we observe our characters in the context of our stories. But when I have trouble writing characters' reactions in scenes, I find it's a helpful exercise to imagine my characters in various contexts. The more I can observe their behaviors, the easier it becomes to choose the "right" actions in the story.

For those interested, here's a post I found on some other exercises for character development:

Thanks for reading!

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