By DiAnn Mills
September 10, 2021
Do you grab your readers by the hand and lead them into your character’s closet? What will you and the reader find? Is the character messy? Is the closet organized according to the type of clothing and color? Does it smell? What kind of boots or shoes does the character buy? Are they worn? Purse, backpack, or wallet? What’s their favorite color? Are the shelves layered high with memorabilia or collectibles? Does the character not have a closet?
A writer’s goal is for readers to experience our story vicariously through the characters and form a sympathetic bond. That means all of the assigned traits ensure the character comes alive. One way is to study the items their personal items. Stepping into the character’s closet allows the writer to explore—physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Glimpsing the choices made in clothing enlightens the reader to income, values, priorities, personality, and individualism as well as careers and hobbies. Those items are seen, touched, smelled, heard, and sometimes tasted. (A stash of chocolate hidden in a closet sounds good to me.)
Venturing into our character’s mental world after viewing a closet’s contents can reveal motivation, how the character processes life, more about their personality, and the inner secret-world not often visible to others. A character, unless suffering from a mental disorder, will not lie to themselves. The mental workings are a treasure chest of information.
Showing realistic emotions adds credibility to the story. A closet often shows how the character internalizes events and happenings through the seven universal emotions: surprise, fear, anger, sadness, disgust, happiness, and contempt. Study how items are arranged, even hidden.
Symbolism can represent the emotional realm when the character uses a tangible item to represent the intangible. Why has the character kept trophies from high school sports? A great-great grandfather’s rifle? His/her first dollar earned at a full-time career?
Look at an example below of how to incorporate the physical, mental, and emotional world of a character and write a deeper, developed story.
A female character’s closet is divided into two parts: business attire for an office job and camouflage from head to toe on the other. She believes in her job, but she is also an ex-marine. Discipline, training, and structure guide her thoughts and mindset. She prefers camouflage and misses her role as a marine. What’s holding her back from re-enlisting? What emotions have her in chains and why?
Every seen and unseen item in a character’s closet reveals more of the inner character.
Flip on the light in your character’s closet and see what’s inside. Every seen and unseen item in a character’s closet can reveal more about the inner character and insight into writing a deeper more developed story.
Besides a visit to the closet, how else can we writers enhance our writing by getting inside our character’s world?
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DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.
DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Retreats: Marketing, Speakers, Nonfiction and Novelist with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion for helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.
Connect with DiAnn here: www.diannmills.com
Thanks, Thonie for hosting me on your blog! You make me look amazing!
It’s always a pleasure, DiAnn! It’s easy to make you look good!
Loved this post. You are so right about examining someone’s closet. And if that someone is a murder victim, you can be sure the detectives will examine the person’s closet.
Ewww, good idea, Marilyn. I hadn’t thought about the victim or the villain.
Thanks Marilynn. Our closets reveal so much about us.
What an interesting concept… to explore the character’s closet. As an author, I truly believe we need to help the reader get into the character’s head, but never thought to look into their closet! Good job!!! Best wishes.
Love this forum to learn and share ideas to make more engaging stories! Thanks for stopping by, Elaine!
Thanks, Elaine. Think about what the smells might tell you!
Wellllll. Guess I have less imagination than I thought. Thinking about Carrie’s closet in answer to your question I realized it looks pretty much like mine. I really knew that when I wrote about her having to clear closet space when she and Henry married and he moved in with her.
Life events certainly do alter our characters behavior, logistics and outlook. Very stimulating, don’t you think?
Thanks, Radine. What did he find of hers or what did she find of his that caused her to wonder if the marriage would work?
Exploring a character’s closet had never crossed my mind. What a wonderful idea to share. As I read about the woman Marine, I mentally opened the closet of one of my characters. I know using your suggestion, I will expand this character’s picture for my readers.
George, I hope your character’s closet is filled with exciting plot twists.
This a great tool, indeed’
What great advice. Thanks for the inspiration, DiAnn. And it reminded me that I’d better clean out my own closet.
Hi Michal, Laughing here – because I need to clean out mine! Thanks for your comment.