Monday, October 3, 2011

Getting To Know Your Characters

Today I'm continuing with my recent theme of writing and publishing advice.  Apparently, character development happens to be one of my favorite topics since I've written about it on three different occasions.  So, I don't have too much new to say, but I do have some links.

Character Development
Character Sketches
Character Sketches 2

Getting to know your main characters is key to writing a great story.  And knowing the details of a character is more than knowing that the main characters has brown hair, blue eyes, and is right handed.  It's also knowing whether he/she is an optimist or a pessimist, and whether he/she had a rough childhood, and whether he/she has any close friends. 

Knowing the intimate details of a character serves three purposes:

1.  The intimate details gives the reader more insight into the character.  The more a reader know about a person, the more a reader can become interested.  It's hard to care about someone that you know nothing about.  There's more chance of an emotional investment if you know some details.

2.  The more you know about a character, the more alive they become.  For me, a character often comes alive in their hobbies, odd quirks, and strange habits.  These odd traits can often prove to be hindrances and helps in a book, making a book more interesting.

3. Knowing the history and details of your character will help you and your readers understand a character's motivations.  Why is this character going out of his way to help this person?  Maybe it's because he regrets not helping someone in his past, or that she reminds him of his sister who never makes an appearance in the book, or that her brother owes your character money and the only way he's going to get paid is through helping her.

Finally, it's the flaws and faults of a character that make them really live.  Perfection is not something most humans can relate to.  However, at one time or another, we've made mistakes that we wish we could undo.  Why should your characters be any different?

When I started writing the Dark Days series, I wrote a number of character sketches to help me better understand the characters I was working with.  Danaus, in particular, had a lot of back story that never actually appeared on the page, but I needed to know so I could better understand him.

Here are some links to some of the character sketches that I worked on:

Understand your characters, and writing that book will become just a little bit easier.


CTannStarr said...

Thanks for the great advice. Off to go share it. :-)

Roxanne Skelly said...

In my current revision of my WIP, I ran into an issue with my main love interest. I'd not done my homework sufficiently as far as character sketching, and he came up rather opaque.

I went back and write a synopsis of his early life. One that honestly could be turned into another WIP, so maybe I'll do that at some point.

Funny thing, he completely changed and I'm ending up having to do major rewrites. And I found that he'd had some uncomfortable interactions with another character a long time ago. That's gonna mix things up.

Only problem? The scope of the rewrite. Yikes.

Jocelynn said...

Roxanne: That happens more often than you might think when you're working on a book. You get this brilliant idea that you're dying to implement only to realize that it will take massive revisions to what you've already written. It's a lot of work (which always sucks), but you're going to be so happy and proud when you're done. In talking to readers, I discovered that most their favorite scenes are things that I've actually written during the revision stage and not in the original manuscript.