Does Your Fictional or Non-fictional Character Come to Life?

Author: Linda Weaver Clarke

There are many ways to bring your character to life. One is an adequate description of the person and another is emotion. Let's begin with the description of characters. We need to see the character with our mind's eye, if possible. For example, Melinda's description of her father gives you a feel, not only of his physical appearance, but also of his deeper inner self. Read the description of her father and see if you can feel his presence and what he is like deep down inside.

'Her father was a tall, heavy man who spent too many days at his desk. He never found time to exercise, so he tended to be overweight. He had a thick salt-and-pepper mustache and a large, rounded nose. Melinda felt that there was more of him to love than an ordinary father and loved him just the way he was. She would not change one thing about him. The bond between them was solid.'

If you choose to be more descriptive in your character's physical attributes, there is much to consider. If your character is a farmer, his build will definitely be different from a banker's. In the early days of the West, men worked hard for a living and developed the muscles needed for that kind of work, and they were proud of their strength. They played stick-pull and wrestled for entertainment, both were games of physical strength. One of the main characters in 'Melinda and the Wild West' is a rancher. Read the description of Gilbert Roberts and see if you can feel what kind of person he is.

'The man stared at her with piercing brown eyes. He was an imposing figure, six-foot-two inches tall and every inch of him was muscle. He had broad shoulders, dark brown hair, and was ruggedly handsome. His arms were tanned from the sun and his shirt could not hide the bulging muscles rippling across his shoulders and chest.'

Another way of getting to know your character is through emotion. It's the secret of holding a reader. It helps the reader feel part of the story as if he were actually there himself. Emotion is part of life. In fact, your own experiences will influence your writing and help you to use emotion. I asked my mother how she felt when she first met my father. Since she didn't meet him the conventional way, only through letters, she said, 'When our eyes met, my heart leapt within me and a warm glow filled my soul, telling me that he was the man I had been writing to.'

We feel emotion in real life, so our characters should feel likewise. In 'Jenny's Dream,' a bear charges after Gilbert. Since I had never experienced this, I studied and read people's accounts. After much research, I was able to describe the situation. When Old Half Paw, a ten-foot grizzly bear, stands on his two hind legs, Gilbert never imagined what it would be like to face this great beast. Read the account and see if you are able to feel what Gilbert feels.

'Gilbert was not prepared for the sight that met him. The grizzly's massive body was standing erect, ten feet tall - and angry. His blood-curdling roar was deafening. The sight of his enormous teeth protruding from his mouth and the savage look in his eyes made Gilbert tremble. As Gilbert looked up at this enormous creature, he instantly froze, paralyzed with fear. He knew that he must raise his rifle but could not move a muscle. All he could do was stare at the invincible animal that stood before him. The feeling of terror that rose in his throat made it hard to breathe as he saw the ten-foot grizzly approach him. His chest tightened and his pulse throbbed.'

Emotion can help us feel satisfied because we can feel what the character feels, whether its fear, anger, frustration, or adoring love. Remember, description of the person and emotion brings your character to life and is an essential part of your story.

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About the Author

Linda Weaver Clarke travels throughout the United States, teaching a 'Family Legacy Workshop' at libraries, encouraging others to write their family history and autobiography. Clarke is the author of the historical fiction series, 'A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho,' which includes: Melinda and the Wild West - a semi-finalist for the 'Reviewers Choice Award 2007,' Edith and the Mysterious Stranger, Jenny's Dream, David and the Bear Lake Monster, and Elena, Woman of Courage. A new mystery series, 'The Adventures of John and Julia Evans,' includes: Anasazi Intrigue, Mayan Intrigue, Montezuma Intrigue, and Desert Intrigue. To learn more, visit