Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Meet Mike - How I Flesh Out My Characters

*This is Mike.


You might have read about him in my post about characters being people too.  I thought that since I'm working on my characters for NaNo, now would be the perfect time to resurrect an old post I wrote earlier this year. (This is more a short story/info flash but you’ll see what I’m getting at)

***


So we already know that Mike has issues with zombie clowns and that he goes to group meetings to deal with these issues.  Personally I think he goes to group to try and pick up women that are just as dysfunctional as he is, though he keeps on denying it.  But I can hear the truth every time he opens his mouth.  He’s terrible at hiding what’s usually as obvious as a fire engine on the way to a burning house, but he tries.

Mike lives on his own in a basement apartment.  He thinks that living underground makes him safer from those zombie clowns because they’ll have a harder time coming in since the entrances are limited.  I once argued with him that it also makes him more vulnerable because what will he do once one actually manages to get inside and a few more block the only entrance/exit.   Well, he called me naïve and showed me the secret tunnel he’d dug a couple of years ago, just for in case something like that ever happened.

Side note: Mike asked me to mention that his issues have nothing to do with that Zombieland movie.  It’s all just coincidence.  Not that he watches those kinds of movies.

You have to give the man credit.  So far he’s thought of everything necessary to save himself should any zombie clown ever decide to attack.  Because honestly, what are the chances that there will be more than one at a time anyway?  Pretty big if you live in a country that has a lot of traveling circuses.  Image a mini cooper filled with infected clowns, before they’re infected, naturally.  I haven’t seen a zombie driving a vehicle yet, but these days, anything is possible.  The closest I can think of is somebody turning while driving.

And like a real teenager, whenever I ask him what his issues with clowns are all about, he closes up, narrows his eyes at me, and slams the door closest to him, walking through it or not.

I then allow him five minutes of sulking, because I’m nice like that, then invite him to one of our favorite restaurants for ribs and rice.  Mike never could say no to ribs and rice if accompanied by some kind of foul-tasting beer.

Mike is part of a civilian organization that regulates and patrols all those hick towns nobody knows exist until you actually meet somebody from there.  The government included.  I was a little surprised when he first told me what he did because as far as I know, and the rest of the world, zombies don’t exist.  Sure, we go see the movies and read the comics, but those things aren’t real, right? 

Wrong.

When I asked him why they just didn’t kill all of them and be done with it he looked at me like I was the biggest buffoon ever and told me that of course they’d tried it.  They even bombed a few towns but Zs just kept on popping up everywhere, or rising up as it were.  That and the government started sniffing around for the causes of these bombings, word started getting around about more terrorist attacks, and you can only use the same excuse so many times.  He didn't elaborate more but I've noticed that he seems on edge lately, more so than I’ve seen him since I moved in.

Mike said that they have literally tried everything and so far the only thing that works is isolating the towns with the Zs in them.  Why would they isolate the towns and not just kill everything?  He didn’t answer that question either.  So the arrangements were made and I’m not really sure what’s going on.  I’d rather not ask right now, don’t think he’ll share more than he already has because I called him a nut job.  I did however received another slammed door and some sulking as reward for that slip of the tongue.  Mike likes to call it brooding because he thinks it makes him look more dark, handsome and mysterious.  I swear, the guy thinks way too much of himself.

Before I left for my evening shift yesterday, I asked him why he lived/slept in the city when he was stationed at one of those hick town an hour’s drive away.  He said he would rather drive three hours to work than be stuck in one of the slightly bigger surrounding towns when another wave of the Z infestation hits.

Since I sort of trust him, he is my new flat mate and a certain amount of trust goes with that title, I will take him at his word.

I should have prayed for strength and patience because this is how we met and what happened in the weeks that followed.


***

This is how I flesh out my characters.  I meet them and they introduce themselves to me.  Notice how much flesh I added to Mike in that short section?  Let’s see what I learned about him.
           
·         We know he has issues with zombie clowns and that he goes to group meetings but not for the obvious reasons.
·         One of his better qualities is that he jumps first then asks if he went the right direction.
·         Mike is a little dysfunctional.  Possibly more than a little since we only met him properly today.
·         He likes picking up women in strange places.
·         It’s easy to tell when Mike is hiding something or, most likely, lying.
·         Until recently he lived on his own.  Now he needs extra cash for something and he doesn’t want to tell us about.  He’s an ass like that.
·         Mike is extremely safety conscious, with obvious reason.
·         He is smart and thinks ahead.  He’s a huge fan of forethought.
·         Nobody does irony better than Mike.
·         He knows how to take care of himself and those around him, especially when it comes to zombie-related issues.
·         Along with that irony, he carries a healthy sense of humor around with him with regard to the situation he is in.
·         Mike has a quirky personality and his moods go up and down at regular intervals.  He likes to sulk(according to me)/brood(according to him).
·         Give Mike the stuff he likes and you’ve won him over.  So very easy to please.
·         He works for a living but we’re not exactly sure what it is that he does. 
·         He’s very good at keeping secrets. Looks like he knows what’s going on more than most so maybe he’s not as low in the organization as he would like us to think.
·         For all his weird traits and sometimes strange behavior, Mike is a very sensible person with a good head on his shoulders.
·         Finally, and almost the most important, his sense of self preservation can be matched by few.
He's dedicated.
Loyal.

That’s a lot of information from only 833 words but that is Mike’s flesh.  This is who he is and all of these things can be found in any one person or another - if you exclude the whole zombie thing, that’s just to make things extra interesting - if you go look for it.  Mike is a real person with real feeling and emotion.  Most of his reactions are reactions other people might have except he handles things a little differently because of what he knows and how he's lived his life.

I see him as a real person because of what we learned about him, and he intrigues me.  It’s the intrigue that makes up part of the reason why I turn to the next page.  Mike as a person makes me want to find out what happens next, not just with the story, but with him.

And the best part?  We haven’t even scratched the surface.

I hope your characters are as real to you as mine are to me.

That's it for this week's NaNo post.  How do you flesh out your characters?

*Of all the blog posts I've ever written, this one has been my favorite by far.

5 comments:

  1. I write the same for my characters. I don't list what I've learned though. Just refer back. I have this Family Tree program and have set up a file for my characters.

    I know some people on the Nano forums have used the free tree program on Ancestry. Now when I get some hint that someone used one of my ancestors, I block them. I shouldn't block, should track them.

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  2. The list is just an example. I can't write down what I know of my characters, and when I'm getting them ready, I only write down the basics like their appearance and a few character traits. The rest is just there.

    This is first time I've read about the free tree program. I'll have to check it out. Thanks.

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  3. I want to know why you didn't actually show Mike in the flesh? It seemed appropriate for the blog... I'm just sayin is all.... :o)

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  4. I'm with Scarlet ... needed more pics ... #justsayin

    =P

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  5. Ha! I had a feeling you guys would say that. Unfortunately Mike's not a fan of photos. He likes attention but hates pictures of himself. Go figure.

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