Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How Well Do You know Your Character?

It took me several weeks and countless drafts to figure out who my main character is. When really, I could have made this a lot easier on myself. I realized I’m the type of girl who doesn’t plan, but writes as the ideas pop into my head and see where it takes me. Sometimes this works. It did for my book, Gossip. But not so much this time around.

The voice is harder to nail and even when my crit friend asked me a question about this character, I couldn’t answer. Because I didn’t know. And that’s when I realized what my problem was. I didn’t know my character. How can I expect her to face and solve problems if I didn’t even know how she was or supposed to react?

Then I remember the advice from my critique group. It is so important to have a crit group, people! Interview your character. Write out questions for your character and and interview her. Find out everything you need to know about her. And more. Get inside her head. Find out her insecurites, her fears, her dreams. Learn the simple things about her, such as her laugh, what she wants to be when she grows up, what qualities she looks for in a best friend. What does she look like? Make your MC real to you. And then, when you write about her, she’ll be just as real to your readers.

And your story will flow. You can anticipate how she’ll handle each situation. She’ll write the story for you. And at the end, it will be like saying goodbye to an old friend. Isn’t that so much better than struggling the whole through and trying to figure out your character page by page? For me, I’m glad I’m figuring this out now. For some of you, you probably already have or you do exercises to get this down. Or maybe some of you play it by ear and it just comes to you like it did with me and my first book.

But if you struggle at all with voice and wonder why, then maybe this could help. When you nail the voice of your character, you know it, because something just “clicks.” And to have the voice, you have to have a strong character.


14 comments:

Steve Finnell said...

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Clarissa Draper said...

I agree with you, interview with a character is important. LIve life in their shoes once and a while.

CD

Candyland said...

Great advice:) There's nothing worse than not knowing the person you're speaking for.

Serena said...

wonderful Rose, I did something similar to an interview with my characters for the book of shadows. I have another problem though, Annie silverweiss! check her out she's a firecracker!

Jen said...

Oh Rose, you my friend are SUPER SMART!!!

Do you mind if I make you pocket size? I'd love to carry you around in my pocket all day to have advice right within ear shot. Just an idea... mull it over and get back to me :)

I'm learning a lot about my characters. I talk with them (it appears strange my husband used to worry, now he doesn't.) we talk a lot before anything is written. I let my marinate all the possibilities (no, not like steak) and just take it step by step. After a few weeks I'm ready to write.

Much like tonight. Sadie is ready to talk, and I'm finally here to write and listen... Bring it on Sadie Jones.

Teenage Bride said...

Oh my are you wise or what?????

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

I do this too sometimes. I love learning about my characters. Usually the voice is there from the start, but it sometimes takes me a while to get into their heads. Character interviews are great for this. :)

Jared Larson said...

Absolutely solid advice. There is no way your characters are going to shine through unless you know what you're doing, with a realistic train of thought, expressed with believable dialogue and narrative. Thank you for the post.

Amie B said...

great stuff!

i write from the hip and let my character develop as it goes. it works for me. i don't know why. but i bet if i followed that model it would really help!

Mary said...

My characters are around for so long before I write that I'm afraid the landlord will put them on the lease!
Lot's of good info here, Rose.

Laura Pauling said...

it's amazing how sometimes character appear fully developed and other times we have to coax them ou! Great post!

Casey said...

I honestly wouldn't be able to deal with the "interview your character" thing. I feel like my characters evolve as the story progresses.

Amie McCracken said...

I haven't done this yet, but I might need to with my next novel. The characters are just not coming together for that one. It's the first time I've had an idea about a world but not the characters. So now I'm having to get to know the characters.

Meredith said...

Such good advice! I've been trying to create a detailed portrait of my new main character before I start writing, but I know she'll change. Hopefully I can keep track of her!