I get a lot of questions asking how to write different types of characters… how to write someone who’s good, how to write someone who’s evil, how to write someone who’s good but turns evil, how to write someone with PTSD, how to write someone from France, how to write someone who is quiet and shy, how to write someone who’s deaf, how to write a six-year old…
The answer to all of these questions is the same: do some research. 🙂
As writers, a big part of our job is to do the legwork required to write the things we want to write. Even just a few decades ago, that meant going to the library and making lots of phone calls, but today we have an amazing wealth of information right at our fingertips through search engines like Google. There is almost nothing you can’t learn about by doing a Google search.
Here are some search terms to help you find what you’re looking for:
– “what are the qualities of a ___________ person?”
– “what are the characteristics of a person with __________?”
– “what causes someone to be ____________?”
– “why are some people ___________?”
– “what are the effects of having ___________?”
– “what are the effects of being __________?”
– “what are the signs of someone with ____________?”
– “what are the signs of someone who is __________?”
– “what is it like to be __________?”
– “what is it like to live with __________?”
– “what is it like to live in _________?”
– “facts about ________?”
– “what challenges do people who are __________ face?”
– “what are kids like at age _____?”
– “what are _____ year olds like?”
Try plugging the characteristics of the person you want to write about into some of these search terms and see what comes up. Try not to be overwhelmed by the number of results. Just start scanning through the list for anything that looks promising. Right-click and open until you have several possibilities to sift through. Then start a document where you can take notes. Also: when you’re writing about people who are good, bad, shy, obnoxious, etc., it helps to consider what underlying situation makes them that way, whether it was something in their past, a personality disorder, mental illness, etc. Often, you can research whatever that is to add to the depth of your portrayal.
Other helpful resources:
– look for blogs written by people with the traits you want to write about. For example, you could look for a blog written by someone who lives in France or someone who’s living with PTSD. Tumblr is a good source.
– look on YouTube for videos, vlgos, and documentaries made by and about people with the qualities you want to write about. For example, you could search for “documentaries about being deaf” and see what comes up.
– look for helpful info graphics using Google Image Search. For example, you could search “facts about narcissism” and see what comes up.
– if you have access to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Curiosity Stream, and others, you can also look for documentaries there that cover the subjects you’re interested in.
– lots of people write guides about different types of people, and often these are geared toward writers. You can try searching your keywords in tumblr directly, or you can search Google: “ptsd guide tumblr” or “writing ptsd tumblr”
– go to the library… really! Libraries are still tremendous sources of information and librarians are trained to help you find the information you’re looking for.
– here’s my character development tag!
@writingwithcolor – resources for writing about People of Color
@rainbowwriting – resources for writing about people who are LGBTQA+
Reference for Writers – general resources; character development tag
@fuckyeahcharacterdevelopment – tons of character development resources
@fantasticalwriting – fantasy writing resources
@clevergirlhelps – tons of amazing writing resources
Disability in KidLit – information and resources about disability in MG & YA
YA Pride – lots of LGBT information and resources
@howtofightwrite – creating realistic fight scenes and related characters
Best of luck to you! Whatever kind of person you’re trying to write, I promise you have it in you to portray this character in a way that is respectful and authentic! <3