Monday, February 22, 2010

A Deeper Look

First things first: be sure to check out the Whoops! Blogfest today! Click the link to see everyone who has entered. I, unfortunately, missed another one! So I won't be participating unless I can come up with something at the drop of a hat...and I doubt it right now.

Also be sure to sign up for Simon's first hosted blogfest: The PG Love Scene Blogfest!! This is going to be a challenge, but one that I will gladly take on. I can't wait to read everyone's entries!

One thing I think we, as writers, always strive to do is learn as much about our characters as possible before writing their stories.
But once you get past the basics(name, hair color, eye color, etc.), how do you know what you need to know?

We all know the rule: know as much as you can, even the information you won't necessarily include in the story itself. Because the more you know, the more your character will come alive. When you know that your character hates to read, you probably won't find him or her meeting friends at the local bookstore, or studying in the library. You probably wouldn't find him or her studying much at all.

Knowing as much background as you can will help you decide how your character will react to every situation that arises in the story. This is so important, and can make or break your story.

While I was struggling to come up with something, anything! to write this weekend, I realized that I was stuck because I had no idea who my characters were and where they came from. I have their quirks, their basic characteristics, but I never got down to the nitty gritty details.

So I decided I needed to find a way to dig into their pasts. But which questions do I ask? Then I remembered something a friend of mine gave me several years ago: she had received a book from her mom called All About Me by Philip Keel. Inspired by the insight it provided about herself, she made a rough copy of the book for me.
I pulled the copy off my bookshelf and immediately set to work. It asks all the basic questions, but then enters a whole new level of thought provoking questions. Do you believe in God? Do you believe in reincarnation? What kind of secrets do you have that your closest friends would be shocked to discover?
And suddenly, I began to know more about my main characters than I ever thought possible.
There are so many questions in this book! And while I think it's a little much to answer the entire thing for every character you create, it's such a good tool. So check it out! I really think it would be worth your while.
I'm so happy I remembered it. No longer is that book collecting dust on the shelf.

And as a fun side note, here's two things about my main characters that I feel help describe them(and they'd never be caught without these things):

This is Brian's newsboy cap. He wears it everywhere, partly to cover his mass of curls, and partly because he thinks it looks cool. I think that it shows his old fashioned side which pretty much wraps up his personality.

This is Paige's necklace(but the diamond in hers is pink!). She received it from her mother for her eighteenth birthday and it is her most prized possession. It's perfect for her because she is such a girly girl and the horseshoe signifies the luck she's going to need to get through everything I'm going to put her through.

I'm thinking next time, I'll post the actors I have picked to play their parts!(Because this is so getting made into a movie, dontcha know.)

How about you? How do you get to know your characters? Is there any one object that can perfectly describe them?


  1. I love to do stream of conscious with my characters to get to know them.

    My male MC is the lead vocalist of a rock band, but inside he's the picture of calm and depth. The female MC actually makes a connection between his guitar collection--elctric and acoustic--and his two distinct personalities. One on stage, the other his real self. She sees him much more as the beautiful, peaceful acoustic version.

    For the female MC, I'd really have to think on that one. She has so many layers, and grows so much over the course of the story.

  2. Thanks for the shout-out, good lady. Much appreciated!

    As for my characters, I rarely care about what they look like. It just never occurs to me to describe them. Their internal worlds are much more intriguing to me. My CP is always bugging me to delve deeper, too, so I guess I've some things to learn. Thanks for pointing out a new resource for that!

  3. I find stuff like the hat and necklace. I can sometimes find things while browsing in a store that screams a certain character. It's a lot of fun to find those things and I think I get a better understanding of who they are through it.

  4. I let the characters run around in my brain for days or weeks before I start writing. I don't actively think about them often, but they're always there, always growing. By the time I write, they're very real. :)

  5. Me again - I've got an award for you over at my blog :)

  6. That is such a good idea! I've been meaning to just go on a Google hunt - look for pictures of the characters, things that they like, places they've been - and just get to know them better. You've inspired me!