Fleshing Stubborn Characters

I recently posted this in my writing group “The Growing Garden” of Facebook.

One of the best books I have read on writing is “Conflict and Suspense” by James Scott Bell. On page 21 he talks about something called “Movie Mind” as a brainstorming technique. The idea is to take your characters, drop them into a scene and let it begin to play out in your mind. You are there to watch, discover and take notes. This is great and I do it on a daily basis, especially in the morning when I’m getting the gears going. But what if you a great idea but don’t have a character or your character hasn’t fully fleshed out even for you? Sometimes the best way to get them to ‘grow up’ is to give them a temporary stand in. I suggest borrow from Hollywood for the time being.
Take an actor/actress you really like and put them in the place of your Lead Character. Find someone that looks …close enough and let them be a body double. The more you like the actor/actress the more you will want to work with them and begin writing. And it’s fun because you can fully ‘see’ what they look like. Now this actor/actress isn’t going to hang around forever. As you develop the plot, pull in other characters that are established in your mind and the party really gets going, your characters unique voice is going to start seeping through until slowly the actor/actress will slowly fade out while your character fades in. You might need to make minor adjustments to his/her voice in the beginning or wherever you started, and that’s fine. The goal is to get writing even when you can’t fully see one of your Leads. Some characters jump right out, demand a part and are happy to tell you everything about themselves. Others hide, peeking around a corner. Using a stand in is a good way to get them to step out and join the fun.
MLG
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