3 secrets to bring your character to life

I’ve just read an article on Writers Digest by novelist David Rocklin. He writes:

‘Imagine visiting someone you know well. Imagine sitting with them as you have a thousand times. Describe them. Now, tell yourself that they had a twin, who died tragically at an early age. You never knew that before. The narrative of your life with them has proceeded to this point without this information. But now you know.

Look at them again, and observe what has changed. What is different about the look in their eyes or the way they dress, or where they choose to live or what they do for work? Nothing. Everything. To render these differences, whether granular in detail or broadly stroked, is to make the character breathe.’

The principle is to start with the known and then change something. When I read it I had my paternal grandmother in my head, in fact I thought Rocklin had suggested it was an old woman, I saw her so clearly. And now I’m thinking… what if the secret is different? Who will come to mind now? Here are three different secrets:

  • They have a criminal record
  • They have never told you their real name
  • They are related to you – but you never knew it until now.

Choose your person. You know their secret. Write.

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