Most writer-advice has to do with research, writing, and editing, all of which are extremely valuable. However, one thing I feel that is often looked over is the necessity of socializing. It may seem counterproductive since socializing cuts into your writing time, but what you can gain from socializing will actually make your writing better and give you more realistic characters. Let’s discuss how:
Realistic character descriptions and diversity
What better way to learn how to write realistic characters than to surround yourself with a diverse social circle? Making friends and socializing with new people will help expose you to new types of people in all shapes and sizes. However, I don’t mean just body types. You’ll also be exposed to different tastes of fashion, hair styles, make up choices, etc. All of these things are part of who a person is and says something about them. Make note of this as you’re out and about, meeting new people. When you go back to writing, you’ll have a wealth of character descriptions to reference.
New character quirks
Another bonus of making new friends is running into people with varying and new quirks. While I don’t recommend you taking notes as you are speaking with people in social situations, it is worth to just make mental notes. Listen very carefully to how they speak. How do they stand when they are speaking? Do they make a point to look into your eyes as you speak? Just like how clothes and hair styles might say a lot about a person, so does how they speak and how they listen.
Try to make note of any interesting, unique, and realistic character quirks. This person looks into my eyes while we talk, which means they are probably outgoing, intense, or they just care about the person they are listening to. This person fidgets while we are talking, which means they might be nervous. Of course, not all quirks are that one-to-one with a character trait, but it’s still worth noting them so you can use them to add layers to your characters.
Speaking patterns and dialogue
Speaking with people helps us better understand how a conversation flows. You could say the same thing to five different people, and I am sure every person would respond differently. Furthermore, even if two people say the same thing, hearing the different tones and inflections completely changes the meaning of what was said. While writing isn’t always audible (audiobooks, for example), you can change the way you describe speech so as to convey the different inflections people use in their speech. Real people don’t speak the same, in turn, realistic characters shouldn’t either.
It’s also interesting to hear how people hold conversations. Does someone frequently talk over you? Are there long pauses between responses? This can differ from person to person, just as it should from character to character. Giving unique characteristics to your characters will, ultimately, make for more realistic characters.
See how people interact in group settings
Realistically, your characters won’t just have one-on-one conversations, but have conversations in groups. It’s important to understand group dynamics and which people flourish versus wither in these settings. Furthermore, it’s worth understanding how each act when they are flourishing and withering in these social situations. In this case, you don’t necessarily have to be the one socializing. Just go out and people watch.
It’s good for your mental health
Ultimately, it’s just good for you as a person. I am a major introvert and a flake. I frequently make excuses to not go out and socialize. Consequently, even as an introvert, I find that over time, I get lonely and a bit depressed. As writers, we typically find ourselves locked away from the rest of the world, wrapped up in one that we’ve created in our stories. Take a break from your own head and experience life.
People prefer characters they can relate to and how how your characters interact with each other is an important element in making your characters feel real.
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