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?


  1. Good suggestions and OMG that kitten is gorgeous!

  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!

  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,

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


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