Character snapshots

One of the most difficult things about writing any story is creating characters that people care about. On  paper, characters that are so alive in our minds may come out exactly like a paper person: flat, black & white, limited. So as we write, how do we make paper people appear to have flesh and blood?

I was pondering this, while simultaneously being distracted by a digital picture frame that my husband bought me for my birthday. It holds a couple of hundred photos, so I had to go through my extensive digital image library to find pictures that I wanted permanently displayed on my desk. It’s like being the curator of a private photo exhibit with the theme: what means the most to you?

And then I thought… what are the things that mean the most to my characters?

I’m not much for writing exercises, but this seemed like a great way to think about each of them. While what they might want in their photo exhibit might not appear on the pages of the book, it informs who they are. A character that keeps a picture of a sand crab crawling toward the shore probably isn’t a character that would burn down a forest for fun. Curating their exhibit makes you think about who they are outside of the context of the story, and that knowledge will inform the writing of them as pertains to the story. At least, that’s the hope.

Give it a try. I’m going to do it right now… just as soon as I finish looking at that picture of my newborn son chomping on his stuffed lion. …

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