[MUSIC] HI, I'm Amy Bloom, and this is a course on the craft of character. This is our opportunity through conversation, through lecture, t hrough eavesdropping on other writers and how they approach the process of creating character and the voice of character in the form of dialog. To take us from the beginning of the conception of a character, which is what we'll talk about today, all the way to a finished product and a developed character and a developed voice for you, as a writer, and for your character. One of the first ways that we're going to begin today is talking about how you conceive of a character. What are the first things you think about when you think about who you want to put at the center of your story? When we being to think about telling a story, almost the first thing we think about is, who is it about? Who matters to me? Who do I want to tell the story about? Is it a lonely housewife? Is it a heartbroken engineer? Is it a powerful warrior? Is it a fairy princess? Is it all of those characters put together in one extraordinary story, or novel? The heart of character is, who matters to you. Not who you think will be interesting to other people, but what you care about. And usually the way we start with character is with ourselves and with our family, because these are the people we know the best. And then you might move into another ring, which is your immediate community. And then into a larger ring, which includes your culture. But the heart of an interesting character is not a series of qualities, and it's not a cliche, and it's not a stereotype. The heart of an interesting character is somebody that you've developed in your imagination, and then we work on the language to put that on the page. I think one of the things that I want everybody to think about when they begin to imagine a character is, first, the physical being. We all have bodies. So there's no character that's going to exist, even if they are an alien, even if they are a mythic figure, without some kind of physical being. And when you imagine your character, whether it's somebody that you have known and you're now making them a little different, maybe it's your mother, but you're imagining her 30 years ago. Maybe it's your little sister and you're imagining her grown up. Or maybe it's a character that you've never seen before. But you're really interested in creating a brand new imaginary character. So whether it's somebody that you're familiar with, or somebody that's coming completely from your imagination, the body of the character matters. And I feel that the easiest way to do this is from the top to the toe. How tall are they? What color are they? What kind of face do they have? Round, friendly, lantern jawed, square, movie star handsome, but when you think move star handsome that's a cliche and it's not enough. You have to say to yourself, what specifics does this person have? What color eye? What shape eye? What kind of brow? What kind of nose? What kind of ears? Big and floppy, small and cute. What kind of chin? What kind of neck? What kind of body? Broad shouldered, narrow shouldered. Small and wispy, big as a barn. Whatever it is that you want that person to be, it's important for you to begin to articulate once you've seen it in your mind's eye, to articulate it and put it on the page. So you can begin and entire list that helps you create how this person looks. Once you've brought them to life physically, you need to be able to hear them. A writer once said, any character that you introduce to the reader, the reader should be able to see them, hear them, and smell them. Use all your senses when you're beginning to imagine a character. Do they wear perfume? Do they smell like the corn on the cob that they just ate or the curry that they're cooking? When you hear them, you hear their voice. You hear how they say things. Do they speak quickly? Do they speak slowly? Do they have a regional accent? Are they from the city? Are they from the country? Are they from the north of a country? Are they from the south of a country? You might have all of your characters be from England, but the people from Leeds and the people from Sussex sound different than the people from London. And those in turn sound different from the people from New York or San Francisco or Beijing. So you want to begin to think, not only how you sound, because that's the first voice you're going to hear in your head, but how these new and imagined people sound. How do they express themselves? We are in the business, as writers, of creating. And so part of the task with your character is to blow life into them. And we do that by seeing them, by hearing them, by beginning to listen to them. And also by the act of being invested in them. So one of the most important things as you are beginning to conceive and to look at the world around you is, what draws you in? What speaks to you? Whose story do you want to tell? Whether it's a little kid that you run into on the bus, and you observe the kid and the mother and you begin to think about families. Or an old man in a hospital or a favorite teacher whose personal life you've never considered but now think, that would be an interesting story. It has to be people who matter to you. And what is that the core of them is not that they are imaginary, what is that the core of them, is your real feeling about them and your wish to make them come alive.