Writing Your Character’s World

I taught a writing class last night at a local library, all about writing a character’s world. For those who couldn’t make it, here’s a recap:

Writing Tip for Today: Let’s discuss the kinds of things we need for writing your character’s world:

Who Am I?

  • Writing a fictional character is more than simply “you” the writer, with a different name. Imagine this person’s looks, of course. But what is your character’s personality? A useful way to begin is to list the qualities your character possesses. Is he/she loyal? Trustworthy? Calm in the face in of chaos?
  • Next, think of at least three habits your character possesses. Does he tape nickels to expired parking meters? Bite her lip when she’s nervous? Drum his fingers when he’s thinking?
  • Now, think of even more unique qualities: Is he/she a natty dresser or does your character dress in old sweat pants? Does he/she stand up straight or slouch? Is he/she a tightwad or a spendthrift? Does he/she drive a high-end car or a beater?

Where Am I?

  • We’re all influenced by our surroundings. If we grow up in the South, we might have a drawl and a passion for hush puppies. If we are in New England, we might love chowder. In the desert, we have the Mexican influence. Think of where in the world or in the universe your character is or is from and give that person some flavor by coloring your character with regional influences.

When Am I?

  • If our character is present-day, we will reflect the gadgets, routines and speech of current society. Be careful with these things, especially slang. Slang that sounds cool or hip now will likely sound very dated to future readers.
  • If our character is historical, research carefully. Historical readers love to read about days gone by, but they are also usually experts at the period and will spot inconsistencies. If your Regency character answers the phone, readers will howl. The same holds true for speech patterns. No character before the 1950s should say, “Cool!”
  • If the character is future, you can invent speech patterns, gadgets and routines, but readers will want you to be creative. If your character’s world sounds too much like other sci-fi or fantasy worlds, they’ll be unhappy. Outfit your character like the Jetsons and readers will laugh at that character. To avoid being derivative, take other authors’ ideas and stand them on their heads.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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