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I’m impatient. As soon as a new idea strikes me, I can’t wait to get started. I have to write the story down immediately. Now! Before it disappears on the wind.

But it is in that rushing that I flounder. Take my new project for instance. I have a good solid start on the first draft – I have the story all worked out in my head and the first five chapters poured onto the page with relative ease. However, I’m beginning to stall, and here’s why: I need to take the time to know my characters so that I can render them onto the page in a way that allows my readers see them the way I do in my head. I need to consider what it is that I know about them – who they are, why they are. It is not enough for me to know what they look like and what motivates them in a superficial way that ties in with my plot. I need to think more about them than that. I need to think about what they want, what they need and what they believe they want and need. I need to consider why they are who they are and why they behave, react and think the way they do. I need to stop having them do what I would do in each situation – they are not me.

Character sketches are a good place to start but I find that I get to know my characters better when I turn my subconscious loose during a walk with my dog or while looking out the window on the train. It is during these times that my characters tell me who they are – when the ghost of personality, of motivation, of action, of character, solidifies and makes itself known.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 5th, 2013 12:58 am (UTC)
I get to know mine best in 2 ways: through scenes, and through autobiography. Scenes come to me when I'm walking or showering or whatever--sounds a lot like your process. Autobiography is when I sit down with the deliberate intention of getting to know a character, especially a minor character, better. I open a new file and let that character ramble about whatever he or she wants to.
Jan. 6th, 2013 06:36 pm (UTC)
I like your character rambling process. I'm going to give it a go on the train in to work tomorrow and see what they have to say.
Jan. 6th, 2013 09:33 pm (UTC)
I find it helpful when their sentences begin with, "I want ..." "I love ..." "I hate ..." "I'm afraid of ..." or, "Let me tell you MY version of this story ..."
Jan. 10th, 2013 03:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I tried this on Monday and was surprised by how much one of the minor characters that I was considering cutting had to say. And he mentioned some stuff I had no idea about.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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