Author Eli Glasman shares a method he used to develop his character, Yossi, in “The Boy’s Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew”. The blog post, as well as the discussion that follows, offer thoughts to consider in developing and portraying characters that differ from the author and his/her experience and perspective.
Glasman strips his characters back to just the level of humanity to consider how it feels to be them. In doing this, he comes to the conclusion that we all have the same feelings inside – no matter gender or orientation.
His ideas reminded me of the remarkable, gender-bending novel “Every Day” by David Levithan. It tells the story of A, a human spirit, who wakes up in a different body every morning. Levithan explores love, friendship, family, humanity, addiction, abuse, and as many human conditions as he can fit into this novel composed of around 40 daily vignettes. It’s reminiscent of that old television show “Quantum Leap”, but it is quite different in its continuity and the character’s goals and challenges.
I have very limited writing experience, but I love my characters and spend a great deal of time getting to know them. I try to experience their stories through their eyes, regardless of the storytelling pov. I like Eli’s idea of stripping a character back to its human essence. With humanity as an anchor and back story as a filter, perhaps it will be possible to find the unique perspective and an authentic voice for each.