Nothing is more important to a story than its characters. Whether you are all about plot or all about character – it always comes down to the people doing the action in your stories.
The last post on this subject worked with the voice of the character. Hopefully you tried out a couple of the exercises. They really do work!
This post will focus on the specific attributes of our characters. For now, I am focusing on the main characters. These are essential to the story – the plot moves forward because of them. They ARE the point of the story.
It is essential to know these characters in and out. You will want to know everything you can about them. Most of what you discover may not be used in the actual book – but the attributes of your characters will often help you fully understand and experience their voice.
Some writers can develop characters with little effort – others need more practice. I fall somewhere in between. I can always get into the voice of my characters. But discovering their specific characteristics gives me added depth, enabling me to go deeper – much deeper.
A while back I wrote a blog about a particular writing software that I use often – NewNovelist. That software helped me develop a series of questions that I use when doing character studies.
I start by looking at five specific aspects of my main characters – appearance, personality, likes, dislikes, and general biographical information. Within each section I ask myself a series of questions. My break down (partially taken from NewNovelist) is as follows:
a. Height/weight and build
b. Eye and hair color
c. How do they dress
d. How do they smell
e. How do they sound
f. Striking features
a. What is their typical mood (happy, sad, miserable)
b. Character – strong? Weak? Passive? Aggressive?
c. Motivation – What makes them smile? yell?
a. Favorite food/drink
b. Favorite people
c. Favorite color
d. Favorite sport or activity
a. Food and drink they dislike
b. People they are frustrated by
c. Color they dislike
d. Least favorite sport or activity
5. General Info
a. Where we they born? When?
b. Do they have family? Tell me about them
d. Most important thing about them
I use these questions to fully shape my characters. And as I have said before – much of this never makes it into the novel. But all of it helps me refine that voice in my head.
One more thing about doing character studies…I use them to break through writer’s block. Many times, when I just can’t write for whatever reason, I can do a character study and “find my voice” once more. Try it!
Next time we’ll cover the other characters necessary to stories, starting from nothing to create a character and great links to help. Until then, happy writing.