First off, let’s start by saying you can’t have one without the other, character/story. The two go hand in hand. Your character should tell a story just by looking at them. What does your character say to you? Most people will tell you to write down crazy things like what’s their favorite kind of birthday cake. Don’t do it. If you realize your character, they will tell you when the time is right.

Building a character is a lot like getting into a relationship. There will be things you like about them, things you don’t. You won’t know them very well in the beginning. They may have some secrets you don’t know. Annoying habits that bother you may pop up. Just go with it. Breathe life into them and let them live.

We are living in a time when our stories have a serious problem, UNLIKEABLE CHARACTERS. How often have you read a book or watched something you invested your time into and the writer(’s) go and make the main character completely unlikable. It happens. You gotta wonder, what the hell are they thinking?

During character creation or realization, its your time to shine. So do it, burn bright. Make those ‘mains’ bigger than life. I know what you’re doing right now. You’re rolling your eyes and saying to yourself, well thanks Ivan, HOW do I make my characters bigger than life? At that point I kiss my teeth at you and let out a hot breath. “Easy,” I say, “Come with me.”

We are getting in a hummer limo and cruising down the streets of a big city. The long sleek machine is beaming the streetlights off the diamond black paint job that makes the boxy body sparkle like a dark jewel. I signal the driver, Who just happens to be me in a disguise. Yes I can be in two places at once. Focus here.

I turn and ask you:

“Ever meet someone who had an interesting habit? or maybe they say an interesting  phrase a lot? Perhaps they had an intriguing look that you filed away in the back of your brain. No? Look over there.”

You see a strong confident woman. You can tell she’s strong by the way she carries herself, head up, shoulders back. She doesn’t walk, she strides. Her calves are showing, see that hard muscle there? Yogalates (Yoga-Pilates) body. Her gold mane flowing in the winter breeze. Her breath of war, streaming out in a ghostly white from the crisp air. Her long black boots crunching the snow beneath her feet like a viking denizen. Look, she’s getting into a dark and mysterious car. You don’t know what kind? She’s passing us, look at the emblem. Hmm, foreign to this place. Maybe a Maybach, not a bad way to spend a couple mil.

Who is this person? What does she do? Notice how we can change her attire just a little bit? Maybe her ankle length jacket swayed open and on her hip was a gun. Of course that gun was something cinematic like a desert eagle, all chromed out. That’s some serious bullet candy for someone into Yogalates.

Maybe she doesn’t even live around here. What if that’s not even her car? What if the real owner is in the trunk and she just emptied their bank accounts?

Boom! We have a story. All great stories start with a great character. See how we can flesh her out more. This story is writing itself. Very little was put into it. You have to pay attention to everything going on around you. You’re missing pieces of your work every day.

At this point we are flying over the city. I know, you’re freaking out. “Ivan, I didn’t know you could fly.” Stop stating the obvious, of course I could fly. It’s my page, here I can do anything. Here I say the word orange, and the sky is orange. Here I say rain, and it rains. That’s how this game works, so why bother thinking so small and making flat unlikable characters?

I look at a story as a series of questions and answers and now so do you.

Ivan Desabrais
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