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How-to Tuesday

How to Bring Your Characters to Life: Part 3 – Deciding How Your Character Views the World

Every week, we update our current how-to series about creating realistic characters, entitled “How to Bring Your Characters to Life,” providing a handy activity to help you turn your characters into realistic “people.” Last week’s post was about how to decide what your character wants. This week, we will help you decide how your character views the world around himself or herself.

Deciding How Your Character Views the World

Does your character have a glass-half-full or a glass-half-empty type of personality? Some people are positive, some are negative, and some like to consider themselves “realists” falling somewhere in the middle. The way your character views the world will help guide you through many important decisions in your story, such as the way in which your character decides to address problems and obstacles, the way in which your character interacts with others, and the mood that your character is the most often in. A negative person might try to ignore a problem or put off interaction with others, whereas a positive person might tackle problems head-on and energetically, and optimistically greet every passerby with a smile.

Since you have already decided what your character wants, and how he or she is going to try to get it, choosing your character’s outlook on life will help you decide how your character handle the obstacles you place in front of him or her, and how your character will react when he or she succeeds or fails.

Put yourself in your character’s shoes, and take the following quiz to determine whether your character is a pessimist, optimist, or realist. Remember to answer as you imagine that your character would, not necessarily as you would personally!

1. Your character finds a twenty-dollar bill on the sidewalk. Your character thinks:

a) “Wow, I’m really observant!”
b) “Wow! I am so lucky!”

2. Your character misses a bus and has to wait for the next one. Your character thinks:

a) “If only there wasn’t so much traffic! I guess I’ll make the next flight.”
b) “I should have planned better. I’m always late, and I knew this would happen!”

3. Your character finds out that he or she doesn’t have enough money to pay his or her cell phone bill at the end of the month. Your character thinks:

a) “It’s been a slow month for business. Things will pick up next month.”
b) “I’m so bad at managing my money. I have a serious problem!”

4. Your character has been exercising and dieting, and loses 5 pounds. Your character thinks:

a) “All my effort is paying off! I’ll be at my target weight in no time.”
b) “Wow! This diet works! I really hope I can lose more.”

5. Your character gets an award for “Employee of the Month.” Your character thinks:

a) “Wow! I must be a really hard worker.”
b) “Wow! I got really lucky to be given this honor.”

6. Your character gets an “A” on a quiz. Your character thinks:

a) “Wow, I must have a really good memory!”
b) “Wow, I got so lucky that they only asked the questions I knew the answer to.”

7. Your character starts a new exercise program, and is really sore the next day. Your character thinks:

a) “Wow, I worked very hard yesterday!”
b) “Wow, I must be really out of shape!”

8. Your character gets hired for a job, even though the other applicants very extremely qualified and your character thought his or her chances were slim. Your character thinks:

a) “I must be more qualified than I gave myself credit for!”
b) “I must have interviewed really well!”

Now, count the number of A’s and the number of B’s that you answered for your character. If you got 5 or more A’s, then your character is an optimist. If you answered 5 or more B’s, then your character is a pessimist. If you answered an equal amount of A’s and B’s, then your character could be considered a realist.

Next, return to the freewrite and/or outline that you created in Part 2, about the actions that your character might use to try to achieve his or her goals. Make additional notes for each action, describing your character’s mood and attitude during each action, and your character’s reaction to the outcome. Use as many adjectives as you can. Feel free to change your character’s actions as well, if you feel that he or she might behave slightly differently now that you have decided on how optimistic or pessimistic he or she is.

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