You know what would be awesome? Having a living muse. Recently, I’ve gotten really into Castle, and it would be so cool to be able to shadow someone that inspires your protagonist, the way he shadows Beckett. Unfortunately for me, that would require shadowing supernatural creatures to gain that ring of authenticity…oh well.
So, since that’s out of the question, I usually just people watch. It may sound creepy, but sometimes, when I go out, I take notes on the people I see around me. Literally. I have a little notebook I carry around with me, and when something or someone interesting pops up, it goes in the book. One time, I was sitting at one of the eateries on campus, on the rare occasion that I ate alone, and I had my little notebook on me. A few tables down from me, there was a couple sitting and eating. Something about their chemistry was really awesome. They didn’t talk much, and when they did I couldn’t hear anything anyway, but their body language spoke volumes. It was interesting to watch them interact silently. It was a conversation all its own. And, when it comes to writing, body language counts just as much as dialogue.
Even when our characters don’t speak, we still have to communicate their personality, feelings, hopes, dreams, and general being, to the audience. Although I don’t have living versions of my protagonists, it’s still important to think of them as people, and not just words on a page. So, our character’s visual can be a very powerful tool to get a point across. This can be tough, though, since you don’t want to be super obvious and cliché about it either, unless that’s what you’re going for. I prefer not to slam the reader with everything about my characters up front, mainly because the characters don’t always give me everything I want up front either. Instead, I let bits and pieces through as they come. No one will give you their whole story the first time you meet them, and the same thing goes for fictional people.
Developing a character is a process, a long, arduous, and sometimes frustrating process. That’s all part of the job, though, right? You can’t rush perfection. Letting your character speak to you is important, no matter how many slightly frightened looks you get from your family when you start talking back.