Just for clarification, I’m not talking about the auto brand or Cadillac. 🙂
We always hear stories about characters walking fully formed into author’s heads, but the truth is that a lot of work goes into building layers and nuances of a hero, heroine, and even side characters. By taking time out to outline who your character is, what they want, what drives them, and what challenges them, they become more fully fleshed out, and that can be the catalyst for a great story.
For writers starting out or wanting to explore further, I highly recommend GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon.
When I began writing my stage play, I knew I wanted it to take place in a mountain town and at a unique cafe. What I didn’t quite have a grasp on was who would be in it. One thing that can help if you are stuck or unsure when world building, is to cast your characters with some of your favorite actors/singers/musicians, and write down an interview or detailed account of the character’s life. For example, in my play, I mentally cast Susan Sarandon, Laurence Fishburne, Daveed Diggs, Adam Driver, Zoe Kravitz, and Jessica Rothe. Here is the GMC I did for one of the characters, to give you an idea:
Dr. Alice Krauss (Susan Sarandon)
Alice is a clinical psychologist, and she also teaches classes at the University. She is a married lesbian, and has a happy, grounded marriage with her wife, Rebecca. They have a grown daughter, and Alice enjoys traveling, world history, and anything which challenges her mentally. She is outspoken, loud, and opinionated. She’s lived long enough to know who she is and what she wants.
Most of the time, writers are so eager to put pen to parchment with a good idea, that they often skip over one of the most important things; spending time constructing their characters. A character should be so real that they could be a flesh and blood person sitting next to you, and that extra time you take to shape them into physical people with weaknesses and sore spots can make all the difference.
What do you think helps to build a good fictional character?