Guest Post, Liz Borino: Bringing Characters to Life

It’s no secret to anyone who talks to me for five minutes or reads my books that my characters are very real to me. I’ve spent many hours talking and listening to them. I could tell you things about my boys (and girl) I don’t know about my very best friends. I know their extensive back stories, their weight distribution, the way they’d approach a problem, and even their bedroom personalities.

So, if you’re still listening and not ready to put me in a padded cell yet, there are good reasons to get to know your characters so intimately.

  1. The more real your characters are to you, the more real they’ll be to your readers. You need this realism to have their actions make sense.
  2. If you don’t know your characters your fiction becomes about you. It’s not supposed to be. The question should never be ‘What would I do in ________ situation?’ Cuz you know you what? It’s fiction! No one cares. Know your characters and you can turn that question into ‘What would {insert character name} do in ________ situation?’ And you’ll know the answer.
  3. Makes dialogue realistic.

Now, you’re hopefully convinced of the necessity of knowing your characters intimately. That word was chosen carefully. I am a romance author, after all. Let’s talk now about how you develop these relationships with the people you write about. I’m not going to direct you to an outline or character sheet. To me, that’s the equivalent of getting to know someone by reading their resume, not very effective in my opinion.

  1. Though some would disagree with this approach, I start from the inside and move out.  Decide the kind of jobs, hobbies, and lifestyle the character will have and allow their outward appearance to reflect that.
  2. As far as their physical bodies, know everything. For women, don’t just know they’re slender with red hair. Know they wear a size four and they love their auburn shoulder length hair. Small chest? No. 32A. For men, how many hours does he spend at the gym in a given week? That will definitely reflect on his body shape. Muscular doesn’t count, either. Bulging biceps and a six pack is more like it… What was I talking about? I’m going to let you use your imagination on the other details you should know specific to men. For both genders, know exactly where their birth marks are. Do they have any childhood scars? This stuff may never be revealed, but it’s important for the writer to see it within their head.
  3. Now that you know who your characters are physically and emotionally, it’s time to play with them. Talk to them. Listen to the way they communicate in your daydreams. If you open yourself up to them your characters are likely to start telling you their story.

You know what my favorite part of getting to know my characters is? As they tell you their story, it’s often very different from the story you thought you’d be writing. And that is way more than okay.  It’s what makes the art of writing an adventure.

Liz Borino is the debut author of Expectations and its sequel, What Money Can’t Buy published by Lazy Day. Throughout her education, including a Bachelor’s Degree from Hofstra University, she’s kept her stories to herself, but this only child is all grown up and wants to share them with the world. Her roots are in Bethlehem, Pa, but she loves to experience new cultures. As fun as that is, Liz likes nothing better than curling up at home with a good book or her work in progress.

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2 Responses to Guest Post, Liz Borino: Bringing Characters to Life

  1. Jenna says:

    Perfect timing! I am just starting to work on my next WIP. I think my characters are a bit flat and need to liven them up. I vowed to take notes on my characters before starting the book. I really like the tips you gave about going deeper.

    A fun way to show a character is by their sytle of speaking. Are they silly, use big words, carefully think through what they are going to say before they say it…

    Hmm – lots of work to do on this next WIP. 🙂

    ~ Jenna

  2. Liz Borino says:

    Thanks for reading, Jenna. Characters are so important in a story. They really make or break it. Maybe if you want to get to know them even better, do an interview. Good luck on your WIP!

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