Paper people

Sometimes there is someone you know who you just cannot believe is that shallow. Does this person think about anything? Stop talking about nothing long enough to grow? Have any redeeming quality whatsoever? Now the biggie: is this your character?

Sometimes in the rush to get the words down on the page you might not have a clear idea of who this character is. Do you flesh out the details as you go or just move your paper person around in your world? This is where I run into problems, usually in my prewriting. Why do I prewrite? Because this is where I get to know my characters, my plot, the arcs, the details, all the juicy stuff that I think needs to be in the story. This creation part is where I get to have fun. I torture my characters. I make bad things happen. Then I’m mean and make them cope with it, react to it, or just plain try and run away. But I also have to flesh out that character more for both myself and the reader so that the character, (and incidentally their actions,) is believable. How frustrated have you become when you come across a character in a story that does something so completely out of character you put the book down? Come on, we’ve all done it. In this case the paper person may have been fully formed in the author’s mind, but it didn’t translate to the story. Or maybe, (the horror,) the author didn’t know the character and blithely wrote the scene without a blip.

Invest in your characters. Paper people are fine (sort of) for discovering things, generic secondary characters or just walk-ons. And when you run into them in real life make up a story about them or invent a reason for why he/she is that shallow. It’s a great writing exercise. Write on.

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