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As many as 45% of our daily choices are driven by habit. What does this mean when it comes to developing characters?
- We need to know what they do every day.
- We need to know what circumstances might alter their routine.
- We need to know what impact “waking up” might have on their personality.
It’s easy to assign habits to characters unthinkingly.
Without intending to, we give our characters actions, thoughts or habits that actually are our own. What do you pay attention to when you go for a walk? Do you notice every leaf blower, and find detours to avoid them because the dust makes you sneeze? Do you cross the street to say hello to every dog you see because you simply can’t resist?
You might find that these same habits show up in your characters. That’s okay, of course. Every character a writer creates is somehow woven out of his or her experience. However, sometimes we let these assumptions slip through unchecked. Or worse, we might create characters who walk in their neighborhoods without noticing anything at all. We’re so busy driving toward our next plot point that we allow our characters to be bland. They don’t have little quirks or pet peeves. They’re too busy saving the world to have a favorite snack or secret obsession, such as perfecting their cartwheel.
The best way to shake up our thinking is to start paying attention to our own habits. When we see the many small choices we make every day without even noticing, we can start to think about how our characters might choose differently.
Try This: Change up your Route
Is there somewhere you go weekly, or even daily? What if you took a different route? The fresh scenery might help you to notice what captures your attention. What do you see, smell, and hear? Take the time to notice, and as you do, also consider your character. Would he or she notice the same things? Something different? Would his or her reaction resemble yours, or would he or she feel differently than you feel about leaf blowers or dogs?
Try it out and then come on back and share what you notice. I’d love to hear how this strategy works for you. You can also connect with me on Facebook