How well do you know your character? Do they feel like generic people, simply there as a vehicle to perform the events needed for that awesome plot twist you came up with? Or maybe you’ve turned full-reporter mode and filled out pages of questions so, like a biographer, you can give the facts of their lives – but still must speculate on why they do the things they do.
But can you get inside their head?
The best way to bring a character-driven story and turn on that story in your mind that plays and surprises you with twists and turns is to create the ability to jump into any character’s head and see the scene through their reasoning so you can know exactly how they will react to a situation.
This is how actors approach a script to give believable and authentic reactions that make the viewer forget their character isn’t real.
Forget knowing their favorite color. We’re going deep, to find out the influences that have shaped who they are and how they think. By exploring the inner and outer influences that have shaped their mentality, we can discover the deepest parts of the characters that will directly impact your storyline and take it to a whole new level.
To understand your character – or your spouse, best friend, or bosses’ logic – you must understand one key concept.
Understanding Your Character’s Paradigms
Your subconscious beliefs are what controls your actions.
Remember, characters are people and they will act like real people. We all know that part of being human is that our reality is in constant conflict with our ideal life. How many times have you set a goal and failed to reach it? Have you ever given a knee-jerk reaction and went away wondering why in the world you did or said that? It has to do with the way your mind works.
Your conscious mind is what you use to learn, analyze, and choose, but your subconscious mind is what actually controls your actions and results. The reason you failed to carry out your goal was that your conscious mind made the choice, but your subconscious mind didn’t get the memo. Your thoughts must travel from your conscious mind to your subconscious before your actions will permanently change your reality to be consistent with your goals. Understanding your character’s paradigms and beliefs is vital to understanding how they will realistically and consistently react in your story.To transition an idea from your conscious to the subconscious mind, you must be repeatedly exposed to an idea. You can do this yourself by visualizing the change you want to see, getting emotionally involved with the ideas, and repeating them to yourself in goal statements and affirmations.
Pay Attention to Trauma and Life-Altering Events
The second way your paradigms shift is through trauma. Some experiences and events are so huge and impact so hard that they instantly reframe your perception of the world. This is how your subconscious mind protects you from potential danger you may face in the future. I learned these concepts from Bob Proctor who passed them down from other teachers. If you are interested in finding out more about your mind, check out here. (This is not an affiliate link.)
To access your character’s mind, you must consider how their life experiences have shaped their perception and their obligations. Events and social influences that affected their childhood have created both conscious and subconscious beliefs they still carry with them. Their physical world creates expectations, obstacles, and norms they must navigate every day. Their beliefs and core goals will dictate what they try to get from other characters in each scene.
These character sheets and interviews will help you sketch out a fully-fleshed character and understand how their beliefs about themselves and their worlds will drive their reactions. This will unlock their minds and allow you to step inside and think their thoughts as they navigate the events in your story.
For a more in-depth look at getting inside your character’s head, check out my SkillShare class. This link is an affiliate link, but if you want to see the class you can get two months free by using this link.
It’s a win-win for both of us. Happy character creating! I’d love to hear about your journey into the mind and heart of your character. Remember, no one can tell your story as well as you can.