What is your character’s natural inclination?

Just as the natural inclination of snow is to melt in warm weather or freeze in the cold, now your character well enough to know what his natural inclination is to act when around friends, with family or with business colleagues.

And then, as the story develops, ask yourself if you can change the character’s natural inclination. The fun is to watch your character change. Unlike snow, humans evolve. And then ask yourself ‘If they change their natural inclination, is that change believable?’

Your characters have a life outside the story

One set of characteristics often implies other character qualities. A character who enjoys listening to a Brahms violin concerto may also know Rembrandt’s Night Watchmen. Someone who grew up on a farm may possibly know something about repairing a tractor and read weather patterns. A successful stockbroker may possibly know something about banking in Europe.

All this may seem obvious but many times characters are defined only in one way. There are mothers who don’t react to a child crying, Brazilians who don’t react when they hear someone speaking Portuguese.

Your characters have a life outside the story. They come to the story with interests and experiences. Even if you don’t show it, knowing this helps you build a richer story.

The stories our friends tell us

We are always interested in listening to our friends: to hear their experiences about passion, tenderness, misunderstandings, sorrow and money. These are new everyday stories.

We ask “how are you?” and expect a new story. We want to hear that things have moved on.   General statements like “we had a wonderful time” or “it was a dismal morning” tell us nothing, especially nothing about the teller. They evaluate the experience without recreating it.

And so too when writing your stories.  Ask your characters ‘How are you?’ and let them tell you their stories.