Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Know Your Characters!

How about some more writerly advice?

It sounds obvious, but before you ever set pen to paper, you have to know EXACTLY who it is you're writing about. You can't chain yourself to your desk for an extended period of time all for the sake of a stranger, albeit an imaginary one, now can you? You have to know every last one of the people waltzing around in your world like you know yourself, if not better.

How, you might ask? Well, I'll tell you: interviews. Pretend you're sitting down on the couch with these guys in front of you, and you're all just having the time of your lives getting acquainted with one another. Grab a notepad and start jotting down everything. Everything. Even if you don't use half the material, write it down. There's the obvious questions, like what they look like and what their objective in the story is, but you need more than that. This isn't so much about coming up with something to use in your work, but making the character come to life in your mind. If he/she is real to you, he/she will be real to your audience as well.

Generally, I spend at least two weeks before working on a major project in fleshing out every main player that I'll be working with for the next several months. I try to understand them so I can better understand why they'll end up doing the things they do later on down the road. It also helps me decide just what they'll do in any given situation if I already know who they are and what they stand for. Make sense?

I don't remember where exactly I found this, but this should help you out.

Character Interview
Place of birth:
What was important to the people who raised him:
Economic/social status growing up:
Ethnic background:
Places lived:
Current address and phone number:
Favorite subject in school:
Special training:
How do people view this character:
Lives with:
Fights with:
Spends time with:
Wishes to spend time with:
Who depends on him and why:
What people does he most admire:
Dating, marriage:
Relationship with God:
Overall outlook on life:
Does this character like himself:
What, if anything, would he like to change about his life:
What personal demons haunt him:
Is he lying to himself about something:
Morality level:
Confidence level:
How is he viewed by others:
Typical day:
Physical appearance:
Body type:
Head shape:
What people notice first:
How would he describe himself:
Personality type (choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic, melancholy):
Strongest/weakest character traits:
How can the flip side of his strong point be a weakness:
How much self-control and self-discipline does he have:
What makes him irrationally angry:
What makes him cry:
What people like best about him:
Interests and favorites:
Political leaning:
Food, drink:
Sports, recreation:
Did he play in school:
Best way to spend a weekend:
A great gift for this person:
What large possessions does he own (car, home, furnishings, boat, etc.)
and which does he like best:
Typical expressions:
When happy:
When angry:
When frustrated:
When sad:
Laughs or jeers at:
Ways to cheer up this person:
Ways to annoy this person:
Hopes and dreams:
How does he see himself accomplishing these dreams:
What’s the worst thing he’s ever done to someone and why:
Greatest success:
Biggest trauma:
Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to him:
What does he care about most in the world:
Does he have a secret:
If he could do one thing and succeed at it, what would it be:
He is the kind of person who:
What do you love most about this character:
Why will the reader sympathize with this person right away:
How is the character ordinary or extraordinary:
How is his situation ordinary or extraordinary:
Core Need:
Corresponding psychological maneuver (delusions, obsessions,
compulsions, addictions, denials, hysterical ailments, hypochondria, illnesses,
behaviors harming the self, behavior harming others, manias, and phobias):
Anecdote (defining moment):

This little list of questions has helped me avoid many a tight spot in the past. I just wish I'd had it when I wrote the first drafts of my first novels!

Your pal,

No comments:

Post a Comment

Come on, talk to me! Don't be shy!