Friday, June 05, 2009

Using Social Media to Bring Your Characters to Life
By Persia Walker

I admit it. I was (probably still am) behind the times. I was always one of those folks who noticed something waaaay after the rest of the world has done so. If you're one of those people who are fast and with it, then you can skip the rest of this entry. But if you're like me, a little slow on the uptake, then read on.

Most of you are aware of how useful it can be for writers to have a presence on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, and Squidoo, among others, to spread news about their books and reach their readers. But do you just how much fun it can be to use these sites to explore and develop your characters -- to, in a sense, bring them to life?

For months, I played with the idea of giving my detective, 1920s society reporter Lanie Price, a blog of her own. I started one, but didn't get very far, simply because of time constraints. I still think it's a good idea to give her an online diary, though, and might resume it one day.

Meanwhile, I plan to set up a Squidoo lens on her. I've already done a lens on Harlem Redux and one on its main character, David McKay. I'm almost finished with the one on Darkness and the Devil Behind Me. As soon as it's done, I'll do a page on Lanie and link them.

It was a lot of fun revisiting Harlem Redux and David. I decided to put up the pages after having a telephone visit with a book club in Atlanta, In the Company of Women -- Atlanta-Style! They had so many questions and I had so much information to give them. Why not put it all down? I started work on the lens and it began to grow. Now, it's as though I have my own Wikipedia page on David and his story. Only it's better than a Wiki because it has graphics, it was fun, and it's my own.

If you visit the lens for Harlem Redux, you'll see that I discuss its themes, characters and plotlines. The lens for David brings together all the information that's spread throughout the book into one place. Eventually, I'll add to that stock, building his character online. People unfamiliar with my work can find the lens and get to know David as I know him. Meanwhile, I'm inwardly aglow. It's as though I spent the afternoon visiting a wonderful and dearly missed friend, one whose story interests me still.

Authors can use sites such as the ones named above to build a scrapbook for their characters, a digital repository of information about a character's history, hopes, fears, appearance, liaisons, etc. Squidoo and Tumblr present marvelous opportunities to organize thoughts about your characters, and create wonderful platforms to introduce them to the world. Sites such as Blogger, Wordpress, etc., provide a chance to have a character muse aloud, or to tell their story in their own words, maybe even as it's unfolding before them. Give your characters a voice. They'll thank you for it.


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