Getting to Know Your Characters

The best characters, whether heros or villains, are those you know intimately. So how do you get to know them? Different methods work for different people. Here are a few tricks that work for me and for other writers I know:

  • Head to a public place and borrow character traits from the people you see.
  • Journal from that character’s point of view.
  • Tell the story from another character’s point of view. This is especially helpful for understanding your villain. After all, most villains think they’re doing the right thing.
  • Fill out a “character questionaire.” Numerous are available on the web and in writing books (for ex., http://www.writingclasses.com/InformationPages/index.php/PageID/106) –or you can design your own.
  • Take a particular scene and free write the character’s emotions in that scene. What is her reaction to events? Does the event trigger any memories? What are they?
  • Sometimes it’s helpful to start with your knowledge of a real person (or, preferably, a few real people). Put together your character based on the characteristics, quirks, and speech patterns from your real-life observations and go from there.
  • Act it out. Bring your whole body into the experience by donning a costume, a walk, or an attitude taken from your character. Walk down the street as your character (mentally, if you’re worried what the neighbors will think….) Journal about your insights.

How do you get to know your characters? I’d love to hear!

:) Cheryl

Rewriting from the Inside Out

I’ve been thinking about one of the secondary characters in my current novel rewrite, a character by the name of Khess. Khess needs a “tell,” something that will help her character come to life as unique and distinct from the other characters. I realized that I’m going about it the wrong way. I’ve been making lists of speech patterns, expressions, and character quirks, trying to find one that fits. Instead, I need to start inside the character, so that the quirk/expression/physical characteristic extends naturally from who she is. I need to figure out where Khess is coming from.

So I did a little journaling from Khess’s point of view. She’s not the main character. How does she feel when the main character comes waltzing into her life? What’s her family situation? Who are her friends? How does the prejudice of her city affect her?
I’m not big on those “lists” people fill out to gain insight into their characters–you know, the ones where you fill in name, age, occupation, hobbies, car make and model. The list concept is a good one, but the list needs to be personalized for your particular characters and your particular story. The key is to get inside your characters’ heads so that they become real people to you. When they’re real to you, they can become real for the readers, too.

Khess is a much fuller, rounder character now–which is both good and bad. Good, because she’s much easier to write. Bad, because I think I might have to rewrite a few scenes that I’d thought I finished. I’m not sure the Khess I’ve gotten to know would be quite so cheery and eager-to-please–and flat–as I’ve drawn her. More work (sigh), but definitely on the road to a better story. And after all, that’s what it’s all about!

:) Cheryl

Back to Re-Writing

I’m finally digging back into the rewrite of my WIP, after the various distractions that come with summer, kids, life, and coordinating a contest. I feel as if I’m getting together with a long-lost friend, all happy and hyped and full of too much to say.

I’m busy incorporating the changes I’ve outlined (which will keep me busy for a while) but I’m wondering it I should dive into a few writing exercises on the side as well. For inspiration :). I’ve had great luck with the exercises in Donald Maas’s Writing the Breakout Novel workbook. For worldbuilding, Lee Killough’s Checking On Culture: A Checklist for Culture Building is unparalleled.

I also just stumbled across a series of blog posts designed for the novel-revising writer. So far, they look excellent. So if you’re busy revising your own WIP, check out Darcy Pattison’s “30 Days to a Stronger Novel” series at: http://darcypattison.com/revision/30-days-to-a-stronger-novel/

Happy writing!

Cheryl

Ze Puppy

Did I mention we have a new puppy in our house? Beau (short for Beauregard) is amazingly cute and very cuddly. He’s part boxer (read: very little insulation) which means he’d prefer to sleep in someone’s lap. Preferably under the covers in their soft bed.

Beau has been very busy during the past week and a half (the amount of time he’s spent living with our family). Here are a few of his accomplishments:
  • Explored kitchen
  • Dismantled blockade #1, designed to keep him in kitchen
  • Leapt over blockade #2
  • Discovered baby bird
  • Carried baby bird around by head (very gently; the bird was fine, albeit slobbery)
  • Discovered poodle ears as chew toys
  • Discovered manuscript pages as chew toys
  • Savaged one ball of yarn
  • Set world record for extreme napping
  • Discovered that peeing on grass makes humans act goofy
Hmm. Think he’ll work up to being a full-fledged inspirational pooch?

:) Cheryl