writing, Writing how-to

Creating Characters

Fiction is an untrue story. That’s why I like to write in that genre. I’m an exaggerator, and fiction is like a massive exaggeration. Creating characters to tell a story is a large task. It’s not the only part of story writing but it’s an important part. Dialogue and scenery can also carry a plot. I’ll go into those at a later date. When buying a book, I tend to read the first page and if the character doesn’t draw me to turn the page, I quickly reshelve that book.

In my book, I currently have 5 characters. The narrator is Matt, a 14 year old boy who starts the book by talking about where he is and his version of how he got there. His hair, curly as a mop on top his head, is greasy from weeks of going unwashed. Visiting him daily with a newspaper under one arm and a cup of Starbucks, black and hot, no sugar, no cream, is Will, his father, now a civilian in a hardly civil world. Bert, bald as a potato head including his eyebrows, lashes and limb hair, is his doctor who tries to convince a disbelieving Matt that he was inches from death, but his condition is treatable, if he stays on protocol. I found a male model in VOGUE magazine and imagined him 10 years younger and tried different names on him before Matthew worked.

Protocol? That’s how his father talks after 24 years in the Marine Corps. When Matt’s dad fills the tiny hospital room with himself, there is barely any room for conversation or concern. Will is angry that his wife is not present to offer a united front with their kids, and angry that his turn at being a civilian has come so soon. He wears this supreme unhappiness in scowls and frequent clicks of his tongue,and goes overboard trying to prove a military lifestyle is the way to live. His refusal to wear anything but a weathered pair of cammies and a tee full of holes is proof.

Izzy is three years old than her brother Matt but they are like night and day in temperament. She’s singularly focused on Izzy and how the world revolves around her. She too has a head full of curls but she keeps her hair trained by braiding it in a dark, singular French braid when she’s not swimming, and under a cap,when she is. Matt is mesmerized by her suddenly enlarged tits, and finds it annoying by how many guys think friendship with him will get them a date with her. She uses tears, always fake, to get her way with their father, a tact that Matt has not engaged.

Merry, their baby sister, does not have dark hair, or even curly hair. She’s a blondie whose hair is always knotted from not brushing. She wears what she ate for lunch on her uniform, and according to Matt, who describes her expertly, is El Gordo. She also talks nonstop trying to weave back together her fractured family with frequent doses of silliness. She becomes much closer to Matt than he is to her, and is the only member of the family who loves their father unconditionally. She in fact can see that Will is unhappy and lonely. Merry is somewhat autobiographical to me when I was a kid. A lifelong optimist, Merry finds good outcomes to all situations.

Research, research, research. I created Matt by falling in love with a male model in Vogue magazine who had beautiful auburn hair that was curly. I continued to work on his nuances and attitude toward his near disaster while playing paddleball. My fascination with the Marine Corps began after reading the book ” Generation Kill.” After that, I read “Absolutely American” and watched the movies, “Full Metal Jacket”, Restropo”, “Generation Kill”, “Combat Diary”, and any that I could get my hands on. I read more books about the war in Iraq, PTSD, magazine articles about cutting edge treatments of PTSD, articles about suicide, guns, and interviewed a Marine for a magazine article I never finished.

The one character i have created and often deleted is Ali, a once beautiful woman who let alcohol rule her days. She has let herself go, her features are fuzzy at the edges, and she hides out in the guest room in the attic, ignoring her children as often as possible. She has not stopped grieving for her lost son, Alex, and allows herself to be controlled by her mother in law, and husband. Three days after Will returns from war, she creates another one by deserting her family. I believe she doesn’t deserve a voice because of her abandonment, but she has a lot to say, and her narration is integral to the overall plot.

Crafting characters is my favorite part of writing. Out in public, I tend to be observant of others and often strike up conversation with strangers. My family used to say I had an overactive imagination, but I don’t see that as a fault. My characters are better than family because they don’t expect anything from me other than writing my best. I only wish id wrapped this book up in 2012, instead of perhaps, 2016.



Matt’s father when he graduated the Academy.



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