You will be the first person in the world to tell this particular story. It’s all in your imagination and you’ve never told anyone. Until you tell the story it will never be born. You probably won’t tell it right the first time. You will make wrong turns and you may have to tell it several time before you get it right. Be prepared for trial and error. The imagination that makes you want to write the story in the first place might not reveal more than a fragment but once your imagination is aroused you will be going on faith. This knowing and not knowing is how most writers of fiction begins.
All fiction and drama show individuals through types. His or her type is the door to which he enters your imagination. If you can’t show how he is typical you will never be able to show anything special about him either. We are all typical of something and at the same time we are all individual. In art as in life we are uniquely ourselves. No writer can imagine a character without some exaggeration. Only “flat” characters are built on a single trait. It makes them memorial but only as minor characters. Round characters on the other hand have wants and needs that make for change. They can succeed and they can fail. They can have adventures.
Characters are a combination of yourself and someone you know. Even if it’s pure fantasy, something will touch on someone you really know. Many writers say they never write about anyone they know, but real people are who inspire you, although when you have them on paper they look different. Wherever they come from they must stand vividly in your mind’s eye as a being apart. Most short stories are more or less modeled on their author, and most first novels are at least partly autobiographical, and most fail because they are dull. The reason they are dull is because most of us don’t see ourselves in an imaginative light. To write about yourself you must reinvent yourself as an interesting character.
Make notes to yourself with the bare bones facts about your characters, birth, age, marital state, ages of children, physical appearance, education, occupation, income and so on. When you get these facts down you will begin to sense the personalities of your characters. This should get you off to a good start and feed your imagination forward. A writer creates the part of the character in his mind, and uses the process to split into different personalities on the safe haven of the page.
Desmond Berry, who wrote about Jesse and Frank James says, “Don’t think about writing. Just imagine yourself in the scene. Walk into the room. What do you see? Now write it.” Remember that you know more than you think you know. When you imagine people day after day, you’ll soon know how they behave.
The sound of the character’s voice is her identity. When you know how someone speaks, you will know what he or she is likely to say. Once you have caught the voice, the character will tell her story. Read your dialogue out loud as you write it. If you can’t speak it aloud, it’s no good. If there’s something you don’t understand, have the character write you a letter explaining. It doesn’t matter if you love or hate your characters, it’s the vitality of what you do feel that invites your reader to join you.