It’s that time folks, time to discuss some CRAFT! Woo-hoo!
Ok, in all seriousness, I want to discuss different methods of getting to know your characters.
Obviously there’s the traditional method of writing so much about them that there’s no way you couldn’t know your character inside and out. But, not all of us are like Stephen King and have the time to just write all day. We have jobs, families, and who knows what else constantly distracting us from the page.
So then, how can one become familiar with your characters, without spending an entire day on it? Here are some handy ideas:
Keep a list of questions, like get to know you questions. It might seem weird, but ask what your character’s favorite color, food, music, etc., are. It’s just like meeting any other person, only this one’s in your head!
If that seems difficult then start with the obvious. What does your character look like? What do they do for fun? Where do they live? What does their home look like? You can learn a lot about a character from what they surround themselves with. Know these kinds of things.
Another great way to get to know your characters is to put them through the Character Tree, which I first used in my Screenwriting class, so props to Kevin Bliss over at CGC for this one. It goes a little something like this, working your way up from the bottom:
Left Cheek Right Cheek
Left Shoulder Right Shoulder
So, working your way up, ask yourself about your character’s instincts, desires, and needs. Then think about what your character is compassionate about, and judgmental about. Now, what is your character’s voice, or active will? Are they an outspoken character, or are they more reserved? Are they “charmers”, able to manipulate people to their will? Give this one some thought. Knowledge and Wisdom start getting into the deeper qualities of your character, and may take some extra brain power and time. The crown was the easiest one for me, being Inspiration/Memory. To me this is what drives your character and what is absolutely most important to them.
Now, there is one more thing I’d like to discuss after the Character Tree, and that is the SWOT Character Outline Tool. Thanks be to Malik Toms on this one, my professor for my novel writing class. This character developing tool goes as follows:
Draw a big box and break it into four smaller boxes. At the top of the page, put the character’s name. Label the top left box “Strength”, the top right “Weakness”, bottom left “Opportunity” and the bottom right “Threats”. Fill them out honestly about your character; take your time. Now, once your finished, see if your character has more strengths than weaknesses. If so, then you have some work to do, because your characters always need to have the odds stacked against them, that’s what makes reading so enjoyable!
Now, obviously this was a very brief description of some ways to develop your characters. This is by no means the end all be all of Character Development. I don’t pretend to know that much. But, I have used all of these methods, and they all are super helpful when your stuck on how a character would react to a situation or what have you.
One last tidbit! Don’t just do these sorts of things for your protagonist! Do it for secondary characters and your antagonist! They are all people with different personalities and motivations, and you should know them all well in order to bring them to life on the page.
620 words later, I’m calling it a night. I hope this was helpful to you, or at least mildly interesting. I’ll see you the next blog around!
P.S. I’ll have some work of fiction up by the end of the weekend, either “Goodbye Marla” in its entirety, or a scene from my novel. I haven’t decided which yet…