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Characters from Life
© Cheryl Wright
All rights reserved
As much as were
told not to use real people for the
basis of our characters, doing so can yield
wonderfully full-bodied characters.
Many years ago, when
working a day job, I came across an unforgettable
young man. He was a natural joker, friendly, hard
worker, and seven feet tall. On the odd occasion
when things werent going the way John
planned, he would use his height as a veritable
stand-over tactic to entice other people to
I stole some
of Johns characteristics for my novel
"Saving Emma". And they work
This technique will give
you a whole new perspective on creating
characters, one that I believe you wont
discard once youve tried it.
Draw up two columns
in the first column, write the name of
someone who is well known to you.
Now write a list of
their physical appearance eye and hair
colour, height, weight, and even the way they
walk. For instance, do they stand tall and walk
in a straight line, or do they sway as they go.
Now describe the type of
clothing they normally wear. It is casual
clothing, or perhaps they are more formal. This
may be determined by their occupation.
Think about the
different clothes they wear in changed
situations. For example, a detective may have no
choice but to wear a suit to work. When hes
at home, does he then wear casual clothes, such
as track suits or torn jeans?
Think about his speech.
Does he talk quickly, slowly, or at normal speed?
(I once worked with a lady who was diagnosed as
being hyperactive; she talked so quickly, most
people had to ask her to repeat herself.)
Now give his language
some thought. His age will make a big difference
to the language he uses. A teenage may say
Oh man, what a day! but in contrast,
his mother would likely say Ive had a
cow of a day!.
Now think about the
personality of this person. Is he shy and
retiring, or more open and outgoing?
What does he do in his
spare time? Perhaps hes a model train
enthusiast, or he may prefer to go to the movies
when time allows. Does he read a book in his
spare time, or watch t.v.?
Now were ready for
that second column.
I want you to study the
first column. What you are about to do is
pump up your friends
personality. If you think it will be difficult to
rewrite your friend, give the second column a
character name. (That is, if Peter is your
friend, rename it to become Jordon for this
For every two or three
character traits listed, you need to change at
If the hair is brown,
make it blonde (for example)
If his height is 6 feet
3 ins, change it to say, 5 feet 7 ins.
For an outgoing
personality, turn him into a wallflower, or
somewhere in between. The character you end up
with will be totally unrecognisable. At least
thats the theory!
During the course of my
day, I often come across people who are very
intriguing to my writers mind. One such
fellow travelled on the same train as I did when
I had early meetings at work.
His clothing was
scruffy, and he was always unshaven. He slept
across a number of seats, and always kept to
himself. He looked to be Italian or Greek;
definitely of Mediterranean origin.
I observed him for many
months, and was often on the verge of asking him
a few questions about himself. I never did have
the courage to approach him; after all, he could
have been a murderer, or an armed robber,
So instead, I used him
to create other characters in my mind.
About the author:
Cheryl Wright is an award-winning Australian
author and freelance journalist. In addition to
an array of other projects, she writes a monthly
travel column for a magazine in the US and is the
author of "Think Outside the Square: Writing
Publishable (Short) Stories" and "I
Wanna Win! Tips for Becoming an Award
Winning Writer". (Both available from
www.writer2writer.com) Her debut novel
"Saving Emma" was released January 1,
2005 by Whiskey Creek Press. Visit Cheryls
contests! Become an Award Winning Writer!
Whether you want to win
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need "I Wanna Win! - Tips for Becoming an
Award Winning Writer" written by Cheryl
Wright; award winning author of Think Outside the
Square: Writing Publishable (Short) Stories.
In a recent twelve month
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short listing in six, and placing second in
three. So can you!
Now available! Full
details can be found here: http://www.writer2writer.com/win.htm
*Bonus Product included.
entire mindset about writing short stories
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