Friday, June 4, 2010

Character Building

How do you get to know your characters?

The voice journal: James Scott Bell in his book The Art of War for Writers suggests writing the ‘voice’ of your character for 5-10 mins without stopping. You can prompt them with the occasional question to keep them ‘talking’ but it’s a great way of getting to know who they are and the way they talk.

The interview or worksheet: Some people like to give their characters interviews with a set of questions designed to get to know the inner them. Jody Hedlund offers a very good character worksheet on her blog. It can be an effective method and it helps to keep your characters consistent.


The timeline or family tree: Some people draw up a detailed historical timeline or a family tree for their characters. I did this for my first novel because the machinations of my characters had grown so complicated that I needed to get a handle on it all. I needed motivations and I needed their histories even though much of their history never made it into the story.

The artistic method: Because I’m a visual person, I also sometimes draw my characters. It doesn’t matter to me that I’m not really good at drawing them; it’s enough to get a glimpse into their personas. The clearer I can see them, the louder they speak to me. Sometimes I wonder why my characters look so sad in my drawings and so I’d make up an event in my character’s past to explain that sadness.

The showbiz method: Some people start a character using an actor as a base from which to build. I once based a character off the actor, Leo McKern. The danger of doing this is to build your character into someone else’s character. But it did make a good visual start and from there I changed him into something else.

What’s your preferred way of getting to know your characters? Can you think of other methods?

4 comments:

  1. Good suggestions and OMG that kitten is gorgeous!

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  2. Hehe, the kitten is now too big to sit on the back of the monitor. But she's still adorable. Oh, and thanks so much for the retweet!

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  3. Hey Lynda,

    You go, Girl! I want to encourage you to keep moving forward with your writing! I have had so many sweet friends pushing me, praying for me, and helping me to make it through.

    There is a great sense of satisfaction in both being called to write and then in finishing a project.

    Can't wait to hear more about your books!

    Blessings as you write,
    Melanie

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  4. Thanks Melanie :)
    You are so right about that sense of satisfaction. It's worth all the turmoil... I think.

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