Sunday, October 25, 2009

What a Character!

I've been thinking about characters this weekend. You know, what makes them so interesting. What kinds of things makes them sympathetic or not, what sets them apart from each other, and what makes them unforgettable.

I've done a lot of research on what makes a great character, and let me tell you it's tough. Sometimes I feel that I may never have any characters that anyone would want to read about, but when I open my WIP, I remember why I love mine. I spent a long time getting to know them before I even wrote one sentence. I read somewhere that making character sketches would help, so that's the first thing I did. Found lots of worksheets online, but I didn't really like them. So, I just opened my notebook to a clean sheet, wrote the name of the MC, and started writing everything I "knew" about her. Her appearance, her family life, her likes and dislikes, what she wants more than anything, what she fears, etc. I even went online and searched through google images for someone who resembled what I thought she looked like, printed out a copy and stapled it to my character sketch. If fact, I did this will all of the featured characters. I had a blast doing this. Now, I can actually see them when I write about them.

What do you do to develop your characters? Do you spend any time before writing figuring this out, or do you just start writing and figure out as you go?


  1. I've always thought of characters before the story...or at least they are such a large part of my stories that they tend to shine through without any character sketching. However-I have notecards that I will sometimes jot down key traits that I want to keep consistent. :)

  2. I must admit that I do not do this:(

    I'm starting to wonder if that isn't a big mistake.

    My characters talk in my head. I get to know them through dialogue.

    I don't know. If I try the Snowflake Method. This is a couple of steps in the process, so I may try it for the next WIP.

  3. I do a little bit of both. I usually start the WiP with little knowledge of the characters. Once I've established a bit of the story, I usually stop and develop their back story. I usually write in it my MC's voice though, unless it's a character they don't know and then I just do what you do.

  4. I did character sketches when I wrote my first manuscript, but I just jumped right into writing last time. I think I'll try them again for NaNoWriMo.

  5. I didn't do character sketches the last time, but I'm finding that I should have. They don't quite have the necessary depth without it.

  6. That sounds so fun! I need to start doing more in-depth character sketches before I write. Sometimes I've written half a story before I realize that I don't know enough about my MC. For my NaNo story, I'm starting to make a list of all of the things I know about my protagonist. Maybe I'll go online and find pictures of her too, what a great idea! Good luck with your writing :)

  7. I've been slowly building my characters for the last three years, discovering new things about them and fine-tuning their personalities as my story has taken shape.

    I've actually done the picture thing too :) I thought of the actor/actress that would most likely play each character if my story was a movie, and then printed out a picture and attached it to their profile page in my notebook.

    Sometimes I sit and come up with a history for each of my characters and sometimes an important detail will just hit me out of the blue. The important factor in my character development has been time. I've found that as I've grown and matured these past few years, so have my characters. They've become real people, and I'm kind of sad that they don't exist.

  8. I have a basic outline of my characters and then I have to write them into situations before I get to fully know them. I'm jealous of people who know all about their characters before they even start writing.

  9. I'm trying to figure out one of my characters right now. I usually write up a back story for the character where I put in her physical description. I'm having trouble with this character though because she is a secondary character and I have a general idea of her personality and her body type, but i'm trying to decide her nationality. My original thought was a fiery highland redhead, but it seems so overdone. So I may make her a nationality we don't read a lot about. Anyway I'll write it up and give it to my critique group and see what they like better.

    Hi I'm Mary by the way. Found your blog from a comment you left on Writing Roller Coasters.

  10. I generally work my characters out before I start writing them.
    Like you I often need some sort of visual image to bring them to life.
    Once I have them it almost feels like they take over and begin to write their own story.

  11. Great post. I was just thinking about this last night, myself.

    I normally don't do anything but just write, but since I had a lot of time before NaNo, I decided to try something new...

    I interviewed the MC, and found out even more about her. It was a great experience and one I plan on repeating from now on :)