Gillian Bronte Adams is a sword-wielding, horse-riding, coffee-loving speculative fiction author from the great state of Texas. Orphan’s Song, the first book in her fantasy trilogy is now available. Hang out with Gillian on her blog, Twitter, or Facebook page where she loves chatting about all things related to fantasy, books, villains, and adventures.
Creating characters is one of my favorite parts of the writing process. Figuring out how they are unique and what makes them them gets me super excited.
With NaNoWriMo upon us—the month of mad scribbling, insane plot lines, and characters conceived through an overdose of caffeine—I thought it would be fun to explore a couple different character crafting games.
Today’s game involves everyone’s favorite sleuth…
Game #1: Sherlock Holmes Your Characters
Anyone else a fan of BBC’s Sherlock Holmes? Don’t you just love how he can run into a random person on the street and figure out their entire life story from just a few miniscule details? Like when he surmises that John’s sister is an alcoholic from the scratches around the phone’s power connector. (Elementary, my dear Watson.)
The little details are a great way of showing your character’s personality/history rather than simply telling it in the narrative or dialogue. But a lot of times, we get caught up trying to move the story along and revert to describing the same thing we’re used to seeing all the time—hair, eyes, clothes, face, etc.—without trying to go any deeper.
When you boil down and hyper-scrutinize the unique aspects of your character’s personality, you might just surprise yourself with what you come up with!
For example, if Sherlock Holmes walked through my door, some of the first things he might notice are the burned-out porch lights that I haven’t yet gotten around to replacing, the nicks on the doorknob where I fumble to get the key in at night when it’s pitch black because I still have to replace the porch lights, the stack of books and papers scattered across the living room floor, the myriad objects that have taken root on the kitchen table, and the pile of (clean) dishes sitting in the drying rack.
From all of this, he might surmise that I am a busy and slightly preoccupied person of the creative variety who lives and eats alone, and who spends more time reading and writing than attending to housework or simple things like going to the store to purchase new light-bulbs.
Thankfully, it is highly unlikely that Sherlock Holmes would be walking through my door any time soon—can you imagine what a nightmare that would be? But setting his powers of observation and reasoning to work on our characters is a great way to get to know them better!
Let’s try it…
If Sherlock Holmes were to sit down for a cup of brew with Amos McElhenny from my fantasy novel Orphan’s Song, he might instantly catalogue the following details:
- Salt-battered boots
- Heavy overcoat covered in dust and mud stains
- Clothes well-worn but not tattered
- Scarred hands
- Wild hair
- When challenged, Amos takes a step forward—unconsciously assuming a fighter’s stance
See what I mean?
Write a scene where your character meets Sherlock Holmes. Over the course of the conversation, see just what juicy tidbits Sherlock can discover from your character’s setting, garb, appearance, and manner of speech.
Don’t have time to write a scene that won’t actually make it into your novel? (Unless your novel is set in London … on Baker Street ... in which case you’re golden!) Simply dig out your deer-stalker (you do have one, right?) and study your character through the windows of your mind palace, logging what you see and practicing your observational skills.
Once you look beyond the superficial, you’ll be amazed what little details you can discover—and how those little details can give such wonderful insight into who your character is and how you can best utilize them in the story.
What are some things Sherlock Holmes would notice about your character? And what does that tell you about who your character is? Share in the comments.