I'd like to take a moment to briefly outline how I go about creating my characters in my work. Sort of a behind the scenes look at a work in progress. In fact I'll take an example from my current work in progress, a novella titled White Walker, that I expect to release February 15, 2014.
There, I've locked myself down to a date with this one. No more kidding around, time to finish this sucker.
Anyways back to my original post. For me my characters are an extension of the story itself. Like all of us they have their faults. Those little secrets that some of them keep even from themselves, that go into the bubbling stew that is their personality.
I do not physically describe my characters for the reader. Instead I paint a picture of that person's personality with the hope that the reader knows someone with similar traits. This allows the reader to create a mental image of the person they know that meshes with the character I have created bringing more intimacy into the story. Emotionally investing the reader in the story.
If the reader knows someone with say Allan's personality they will see that person's face when they read those sections Allan appears in. If I described the character, using any one of the old standbys such, as checking their appearance in a mirror, this takes the creation of the character from the readers hands, leaving in its wake a cardboard cutout no one would really care about.
In White Walker a group of ten people are isolated in a call center by a blizzard that has shut down the entire east coast. Things are further complicated by the arrival of the White Walker, an old legend brought to these shores by Russian immigrants who emigrated to the U.S in the early parts of the nineteenth century. The White Walker feeds on the souls of all who become lost in winter storms. He first appears to those in the call center in the guise of a man walking through the storm. Only as the snow swirls around him he fades in and out of view as if he's passing behind unseen curtains.
The character I want to focus on is Cody. He's young, in his mid-twenties, no schooling beyond high school, in fact he's lucky he even graduated. He's a hard worker but he has a problem with organization and punctuality. He also has a bit of a drinking problem. A little hand me down from his father who would lay around the house getting drunk while Cody's mother worked three jobs to keep a roof over her family's head and food on the table. For the purposes of the story he will serve as the voice of reason believe it or not because he also does not hesitate to let anyone know what he's thinking.
He's a hardworking kid struggling to do the right thing yet hindered by his upbringing and a lack of maturity. He has yet to learn that hard drinking the night before work tends to leave one in the throes of a hangover. Of course he blames this on his friends who always seem to show up at the wrong moment. But in the end he will learn what true responsibility entails.
Have you formed a mental image of Cody?
Does he sound familiar?
He does to me because he is a near match of someone I know personally. While my creation of this character may sound like stereotyping, everything about him was drawn from real life. If you know someone like him I'm sure right about now you see that person's face with your mind's eye and you've associated the character of Cody with that image.
You've become emotionally attached to a fictional character.