Saturday, June 23, 2012

Knowing Your Characters

One way to get to know your characters is to write a first-person essay about the life of each of the major characters, relating important or life-altering events for each one—kind of "My Life So Far." Pictures help. Find the things that helped to shape his/her personality, formed her character. It will take a few days, but it's worth doing. This method really helps some people get to know their characters, and it will help find the voice for each one. Each writer has to find his or her own way. Try it and see if it works for you.
What caused this?
Give both the protagonist and the antagonist a background and a personality. Say the heroine’s cousin has trusted the wrong man more than once. The author should know why she falls for them. Are they much older than she is? Is she looking for a father?
If you cover the character’s life, you'll have much more information than you'll use in the story, but once you know your characters well, bits may find their way into your book.

How do you do it? How much do you know about your characters?


Sandy Cody said...

Inventing characters is the part of writing I enjoy most. I write a short bio of the main actors in my stories. I also keep a record of everyone's ages, including the year in which they were born. I think the time in which a character grew up makes a difference in their perception of the world. I'll have to try to personal essay.

Polly said...

I always have a basic biography of my characters at the beginning of each new book. I see them as if they were standing in front of me. I think it's because I'm a visual person, coming out of the art field. A more complete biography develops as I write them. Since I'm a by-the-seat writer, I always felt if I got too specific, I'd leave nothing to surprise me about them, so writing out that kind of history is nothing I'd do. As my story takes twists and turns, so do my characters. I love the spontaneity. You are right that each writer has his/her own way of developing the main characters in their books.

Ellis Vidler said...

I'm with you, Sandy. I love finding the characters. They come before finding a plot for me. I see them, get to know them, and then try to find a suitable plot.
Polly, I do get to know the characters first, but details pop up as I write. For me, knowing them helps me keep their actions and reactions authentic. As in my WIP--I didn't know the main male well enough, and I'm having to do major rewrites because of it.

Vicki Lane said...

I know far more about my characters than I'll ever tell the reader but that that deep knowledge helps me keep the characters' actions and reactions consistent. I like your suggestions.