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