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Monday, May 3, 2010

10 Suggestions for Building Characters

In case anyone's curious, Super Saver won the Derby. The best placing from my four picks was sixth. No more random horse racing talk until May 15th. =D Maybe.

Also, today is Wizarding Independence Day, or the speculated date that *SPOILER WARNING* Harry killed Voldemort in Deathly Hallows. *CLOSE SPOILER WARNING* On Facebook, this event is commemorated by Harry Potter Status Day. =D

Today I wanted to talk about developing characters. Now, there's definitely more than one way to create 3-D characters. These are just a small sampling, some that I've used and some that I haven't. Everyone has their own method. You might use one of these, or mix and match a few. If you have a suggestion, feel free to share it in the comments. =)

1. Pop into my head. This is the one I use the most. Most of the time, the characters and their personalities just pop fully formed into my head. Sometimes I'll even have a character before I have a plot. If I try to force a character to do something that isn't them, they twist it around so that it is.

Example: In Jump, Hannah's pissed at her best friend, Sarah, because Sarah's dating Hannah's crush. In the scene, Sarah walks up to Hannah at her locker.

How the scene was supposed to go: Sarah would walk up, Hannah would apologize, and the two of them would become friends of a sort again.

How the scene actually went: Sarah walked up, Hannah snapped at her, slammed the locker, and walked away. I yelled at Hannah for five minutes afterward, but the scene has stayed that way ever since. I can't force Hannah to do something that she wouldn't do.

2. Character interviews. I use this one a lot too. It can be an interesting experience sitting down and just talking in a relaxed atmosphere with a character. Typing out the responses is best. You never know what they might say that could become a potential plot point.

3. Twenty questions (Or a hundred, or fifty, or however many you want). There are many character interview question sheets out there, and you can also make up your own. Or mix and match for your needs.

4. Pictures. For outward description, a lot of writers use pictures. This can also help with personality a little. Sarah's picture makes her look like an independent, outgoing girl. Randy's makes him look like a sweet, bad boy. Robbie's looks like a hot, popular guy. All of which they are.

5. Character chart. I use an Excel worksheet to keep track of minor details such as hair and eye color, basic personality information, relations, and other small tidbits so I don't have to search through the story to find them.

6. Basing characters off real people. You have to be careful with this one, but you can borrow characteristics from people and use them as the basis of characters. I know I've done this, though whether it's conscious or subconscious, I'm not sure.

7. Voice games. These are online games, sometimes on forum threads, where you can get together with other writers and have your characters interact. They take some time to keep up, but are a ton of fun. They can also be a great way to get to know other writers.

8. Write a short biography. You can do it in third or first person, but first person would help with the characters voice. Write about where they live, what they like to do, who their friends are, all the normal biography things. This is similar to a character interview, though typically shorter and without the concrete guidelines of the questions.

9. Write a stream-of-consciousness from the character's PoV. For anyone who doesn't know, stream-of-consciousness writing is kind of like journal entries. Only without structure. You just write down anything and everything that comes to mind; it doesn't even have to make sense. Doing this at different intervals of the story could be very interesting and beneficial.

10. Character scrapbooks. For more information on this one, go to Tanja Gustavsson's blog. It sounds like a really awesome character building idea. Might have to try it sometime.

Have an idea? Add it in the comments! I'd love to hear them.

1 comments:

R. Garrett Wilson said...

I've been doing a series on character development on my blog. Sometimes I get a bet wordy... no, wait,... detailed, yeah, I get detailed. So anyhow, I appreciate seeing the simplicity of explaining 10 character building techniques. I might even quote you a time or two in upcoming posts.