Can You Imagine the Character You Read About?

Woman, Butterflies, Fashion, People, Minimalism, Art

Can you imagine the character you read about?

More importantly, is the character relatable?

How do we take abstract ideas and develop them into three-dimensional characters who love, laugh, hurt? Who live a life we can understand.

Here is what I’ve found through reading, writing, studying:

  • Give them a background. Why is the character a horrible person? Was he in an abusive household?
  • Create nervous tics or habits. Everyone has habits they don’t realize they’re doing — play with their hair (nervousness or self-centered), roll their eyes (lack of patience).
  • No character is absolutely perfect. Is a perfect person relatable or lovable? No, because we know that’s a front. They’re keeping something from us. We want to see what that is.
  • Character need realistic reasons for doing what they’re doing. If a character is evil, there should be a reason or it’s hard to follow, to believe.
  • Characters with unique features are interesting. They stand out if they have, say, buck teeth or big glasses that cover half their face, or two different color eyes, or a buzz cut so short the hair seems penciled to their head.
  • No stereotypes. Are all women maternal and spend their time in the kitchen cooking? Heck no. Are all men against asking for directions? No. I’ve seen it happen. It’s formulaic, and as such less interesting.

A good character not only carries a story, but can become the story.

I watched Homeland for one reason — the main character. Good show, but not all episodes carried their weight. Carrie, however, was worth every moment I took away from my own life to watch hers. It’s hard to encounter such a dynamic, vulnerable yet strong character in television. Same with the book series Bosch. Harry carried the story.

When reading, do you imagine the character in detail? Do you get attached to their story?

I do. Same when writing.

Paige, from my short-story collection Start Again (Survivor), is a woman who is only happy when she’s unhappy. Morose, distant, yet a tender soul who works long hours, donates to charity, and eschews anything social, Paige finds herself with one friend when life strikes. Loosely based on a real life person, Paige took on a life and look of her own as I wrote her. Her features developed in my mind’s eye little by little until a full-fledged person emerged.

Here is sort of how I see her — picture below. She is a mixture of morose, curious, vibrating with energy, distant yet helper. An enigma to many. An open book to few. You’d want Paige as a friend, but only after being around her a while.

Girl, Woman, Head, Face, Portrait

How do you imagine the characters you read about? Do you form a clear picture based on description, actions, both?


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Podcasts, my new love

Moon, Full Moon, Moonlight, Super Moon

I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes.

How long have podcasts been around?

No, please don’t answer. It’s embarrassing. They’ve been around too long.

You constantly hear of celebrities coming up with podcasts. By the way, the definition straight from the dictionary: podcast = a digital audio file available on the internet for downloading to a device, typically available as a series or new installments.

So, driving to work again, I decided listening to a podcast would be a good way to kill time.

And I found Serial, by Sarah Koenig.

Just like that, the drive became too short. Serial is very well done. Of course, the first season is sad. It’s about a murder. About finding out if the man in jail for it is really the guy. What Sarah Koening does well is remaining impartial and inviting the listener to solve the mystery with her.

I came away not sure. I want to like the young man behind bars – his vibe of innocence – but I’m not sure. The emotion is there. The character development is top notch. Descriptions done well enough to put the listener right there in the heart of it all. Detailed oriented, but not over the top.

The series is a master class on good production, and in general, good storytelling.

As a writer, I aspire to being able to do that: stay out of the story while telling it. Take the reader to the desired effect, without giving the impression of directing. All in all, we aspire to telling good stories, allowing the reader to draw a conclusion based on what and how we write and not telling the reader what and how to think. Not to the point it’s an opinion piece.

Though, eh?

I like Serial. Not always easy to listen to, but very realistic in my view.

The installments are good storytelling. And I am finally getting with the times and listening to podcasts. I’m sure by now there’s something newer and fancier than a mere podcast available, but I’ll be the last to get with it. Again.

What do you listen to on long drives, or when you just want to listen?

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Image: pixabay

Must Go On

Road, Open, Sky, Armenia, Highway, Travel, Freedom

It seems impossible to go on with everything that’s happening in the world — war, hurricane, virus. Yet go on we must.

Help, if we can. Friends around me are donating baby clothes to organizations helping Afghan refugees (California is home to the largest Afghan population in the US). Some are volunteering their services, some are even writing welcoming letters.

Help comes in multitudes. Even a kind word over the phone can help.

Same for people affected by Ida. People in Haiti. The list goes on.

So, yes, it seems impossible. But we must go on for our present and future potential. We need a much-needed reminder that not everything is lost.

  • Young gorillas have learned to dismantle poachers traps;
  • We can now ‘listen in’ to Universe;
  • Some parts of the world are on track to wiping out one type cancer;
  • Scientists are working on a sieve that turns seawater into drinking water;
  • Researchers are understanding how to repair spinal cord injuries;
  • Science is fighting back against antibiotic resistance;
  • NASA has released all its research to the public for free; Source: Science Alert

One of my favorite new-ish breaking news alerts (of sorts) is:

Humans are inherently good.

Whether humans were born good or bad has been debated by philosophers for centuries.

Thousands of papers have been published on the subject, many coining the phrase “Human nature is inherently bad.”

Yet, more recent writing on the subject concludes that human nature is inherently good.

Survey shows more people than ever have volunteered for causes over the past ten years alone; with an overwhelming number of those surveyed going beyond volunteering and actually taking action (humanitarian, political).

Understanding our fundamental goodness is merely a philosophical exercise, but one that helps move forward and affect change within ourselves and the world.

What is one good thing happening with you or near you?

photo source: pixabay

A Challenge and A Review

Technology, Abstract, Photography, Photograph, Woman

I entered a challenge, dear friends.

One that takes breaking oneself apart, then putting oneself back together.


One, because I like to write.

Two, because has put the challenge together.

Three, because a panel of esteemed judges will be reading the stories (this may not be such a good thing, being judged by celebrities. Then again, I wonder.)

There is more, of course. They offer prizes and honorable mentions.

But … the prompts.

One prompt, dear friends, is Death.

In any form, of course: death of a bad idea, death of ideals we held on too long for no reason other than stubbornness.

Death can be good, the judges said. Or bad.

There are three other prompts (a total of four): Space, Work, and Reentry.

I chose Space and Death. The first story (prompt Death) has just been published.

I can’t publish it here because Medium wants exclusive copyrights, but here is the link if you’d like to read it.

YOUR TIME TO SHINE – On having my heart in two places

Secondly, and just as important, Gwynn Rogers was kind enough to write a review for my short-story collection, START AGAIN. My big thanks for this precious gift, Gwynn.

Here it is:

Silvia Villalobos’ five short stories in her book START AGAIN are definitely rich with real life situations and feelings.  Life does not always go the way we planned it, so often times we need to stay strong and come up with an alternative plan.  I enjoyed learning how people dealt with solving their problems in life.

An Affair of the Heart deals with the issue of infertility and how spouses deal with the problem. Men and women often have different solutions to the problem.

Survivor shows how Paige deals with an aggressive form of cancer and wins.   However, how does she celebrate her win?

Ioana tells of a man trying to escape the grief of losing his wife without acknowledging his feelings.  He leaves San Francisco to travel back to the Balkans to run away from friends trying to help him only he runs into a woman who helps him identify and deal with his feelings.

The Friend – is she a friend or not?  Brooke helps her friend by taking care of her three-year old son while the mother recovers in rehab from the grief of losing her husband.  However, how is Brooke helping, or is she?

Games how a couple add to a romantic evening.  The husband turns out to be an abusive cop, so how does this evening turn out?


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Photo credit: pixabay