Thursday, April 29, 2010

Inside Out

I’ve been reading Brandilyn Collins’ Getting Into Character and find the comparison between actors developing their characters and writers building theirs completely fascinating. Brandilyn draws many parallels that show why her characters are always so very real.

I’m only on the second chapter (as finding time to just sit down and read is…well…hard), but already am full of ideas on how to improve my characters, as well as how to make future ones more developed before I even start.

One guideline sticks with me. “Characters are built from the inside out.”

At first, that statement is like a “well duh”. But when you really sit down and consider it, in the examples that Brandilyn gives, it takes on a deeper meaning.

As we develop our characters and get to know them, we’re creating actual personalities. Everything about those personalities has come about for a reason. In the real world, people don’t have traits, ticks, and mannerisms just because they were born that way. Their personalities evolve and develop as they learn, grow, evolve, and experience.

So, it seems natural that if your character bites her lip whenever she gets into an uncomfortable situation, there’s a reason why. It’s our job as writers to figure out why so that we are using that tick in a way that is true to our character. If our character walks around, head held high, staring the world down—something in his gave him that steely, me-against-the-world attitude. What was it?

Make sure as you develop your characters, that your characters walks, talks, thinks, acts, etc in a way that reflects who they are, and that you don’t give them any traits, mannerisms, or ticks just to make them stand out. There is a reason for everything, or it’s not true to the character.


  1. Hmmm... Very interesting. So we have to be like psychologists and analyze our characters' personalities? Sounds like fun!

  2. That sounds like a very helpful book. And a great point about characteristics. I'm getting ready to go through my manuscript and edit it, so I am definitely going to keep this in mind.

  3. Am I the only one to comment? I have more to say. LOL It's such an interesting perspective, I had to come back and read it again.

    We do that with people we meet too, trying to find out where they got their habits from, or what experiences and background shaped them into who they are now. At least I do. Studying people is so fascinating.

    When I build a character, I usually start by imagining the physical appearance. Now you got me thinking. Maybe I should start from the inside out instead. Hmmm... *ponder*

  4. I haven't read her book, but I used to read her blog. Great info! I might have to order it!


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