Monday, November 13, 2017

How to Be Your Characters – Inside and Out

Today’s guest blogger is award-winning author Jayme Mansfield. Her newest book, Rush, released this month, and Jayme is giving away a free copy. To enter the drawing, leave a comment below and include your email address.

By Jayme H. Mansfield

Once again, Halloween has come and gone. Although it isn’t my favorite holiday, it provides a fun excuse to dress up and be someone else for a change.

But for us fiction writers, we have a little secret … we  “dress up” and become different characters all the time. Now, I’m not saying put on a cowboy hat or a Batman mask, or swipe on a little face paint, or slip on a furry bunny suit. Instead, when it’s time to delve into the world of fiction, create a full-blown story, and hang out with your characters over the course of thousands of words, it’s time to put on the full disguise—the internal and external persona that makes characters come alive.

What’s Inside?
This is an exciting and revealing place to start. Instead of determining your character’s hair and eye color, height, choice of shoes, straight versus crooked teeth … you get what I mean ... first go inside the heart, mind, and soul. You won’t know everything yetas the character must grow and change over the course of the book—but you’ll discover that what’s on the inside impacts what’s on the outside.

A Few Thoughts to Consider:
  • What does she think about when she can’t sleep at night? 
  • What’s in her dreams?
  • When she isn’t speaking, what is she thinking, feeling?
  • When she looks in the mirror, whom does she really see?
  • What does she wrestle with that no one else would suspect or see on the outside?
  • What's her demeanor with others versus when she is alone?
  • Does her past haunt or help her?
  • What is the “hole” in her heart?

Inside Out 
Now, like a favorite sweater, turn your character inside out and see what’s there. The color and texture is slightly different, yet made from the same fabric. What’s on the inside of your character that might dictate outward appearance and actions?

Perhaps your character’s rough upbringing results in unshaven stubble on a daily basis. Or, toss in a juxtaposition and instead, he is obsessed with immaculate hygiene to compensate for an out-of-control and messy childhood or past marriage.

Maybe your high-powered executive refuses to wear high heels so she can walk quickly every place she goes, but is actually fearful of who or what may be after her.

Don’t forget the eyes. There is truth that they are the windows to the soul. What color and shape are your character’s eyes? Are they adorned with wrinkles of age and wisdom, glassy and dull with despair, or bright and youthful with hope and anticipation? Maybe your character chooses to wear dark sunglasses. Hmm?

Wardrobe Switch
If becoming one character isn’t fun enough, we fiction writers get to trade out personas and switch to other characters—try on their pants, walk in their shoes, and wear their hat, so to speak. It’s quite a thrill to get to know others so well. And if you really want to get wild, take a whirl at writing in first person POV (point of view). But I’ll warn you, you may begin to look, feel, act, and believe that you actually are that person. Let’s just hope it isn’t the antagonist!

What ways do you get to know your characters inside and out? 

(Photos courtesy of Pexel and author.)


Jayme H. Mansfield is an author, artist, and educator—and feels a bit incomplete when she’s not juggling all three balls. Jayme H. Mansfield is an author, artist, and educator—and feels a bit incomplete when she’s not juggling all three balls. Her award-winning debut novel, Chasing the Butterfly, is a book club favorite and Amazon bestseller. Her new novel, RUSH, provides a tension-filled, moving tale of a pioneer woman’s determination to survive. The story is based on the life of Jayme's great-great grandmother.

Jayme lives in Lakewood, Colorado, where she and her husband have survived raising three hungry, hockey-playing sons. Currently, a very needy Golden Retriever runs the roost. When Jayme isn’t writing, she teaches art to children and adults at her long-time art studio, Piggy Toes.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks Jayme for this insightful article. It's a keeper. Your teaching skills shine through. Wish I'd had it in the beginning stages of my novel but will use it as a litmus test for my characters in the edits. I look forward to reading Rush. All God's best for your success.


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