The story has begun, the setting is laid out and the paper is willing you to let the thoughts flow as words onto it.
When I sit back and think, ‘What can make this character more exciting, more realistic?’ One of the parts of doing this is to introduce sub-characters throughout the story to keep it going, to introduce opportunities for other emotions and work through other scenarios.
I realize that to get that link for the reader to relate to, you need to draw from real life. Do you remember that strange person from your childhood who you were a little bit scared of; who had a house full of old and strange stuff and everything smelt of mothballs? Or that old man who was unbelievably grumpy and always wearing dark clothes and grumbling under his breath? Or that wonderful old lady who had the most delicate rose decorated china and a house full of cats? As a child, you might have accepted them as they are or tried to avoid them, but as a writer, you are presented with memories full of character links. Adding a little here and a little there from real life – you form a little attachment to reality that the reader sometimes craves. If the characters are too unrecognizable – you are stuck with a possibly brilliant story but no bridge to the gap.
I sometimes also base my animal characters on animal-companions (‘pet’ always sounds to me a little too much like ownership is involved) I have had through the years. I have had comments about how the animal seems like a real individual, doing things that a real one would do – things that the reader relates to. And with that, I sit back and glow for a while – mini mission complete. 🙂
So, take a stroll down memory lane – rediscover those individuals that stand out and don’t forget your notebook!