Friday, November 6, 2009

Connecting With Characters

Characters. Can’t write with out them and you sure can’t have any kind of a story without them. You can have the best setting in the world, the greatest idea, but without people to bring that to life you won’t have much of a story.

There are just as many ways to develop characters as there are to plot. There are entire books on the subject of creating a character. Some writers conduct “interviews” to get the feel for their characters, others fill out questionnaires and still others fly by the seat of their pants.

I’m a visual person so I usually come up with the description of my character right away. I have to be able to picture them in my head and since I am hardly an artist I go to the next best thing – celebrities. When I was developing my anti-terrorist team for my romantic suspense series I looked for actors that resembled the men I had pictured. I found screen shots of these actors and saved them with the name of the character they were representing.

Beyond knowing what they look like I have to know the personality of my characters, especially my main hero and heroine. I need to know how they are going to react to the situation I’m putting them in and how they are going to react to each other.

Background is also important but I don’t spend a lot of time on it unless it’s important to the story or important to why they are the way they are.

Right now I’m working on developing the characters for my next project. I don’t feel that I can do the kind of plotting I want without first knowing who my characters are going to be. Once I have that down, plotting will be next.

So how do you develop characters? Do you fill out questionnaires? Have you ever had a character that you’ve just connected with? What about one that you didn’t like?


Andrea said...

I don't fill out questionnaires or character templates. I don't interview them nor do I write out detailed biographies. What I do spend some time on, though, are their names. Once a name strikes me just write, I begin to develop a real sense of who that person is.

Sheila said...

I don't write down character sketches or anything. What I do is to start thinking about my characters, the kind of voice they will have, some of the circumstances of their lives. And then, as they go along, they start telling me things about themselves, and I start writing notes.

I do keep a character spreadsheet, where I keep track of a character's full name, age, gender, hair and eye color, etc. There's also a nice wide column for "notes," so that I can record things like "August Winterbourne, aka 'Papa,' graduated from the Royal Academy in 1852, a member of the academy's second graduating class," and so on.

I've had many that I've connected with, and very few that I didn't like. I've occasionally had some that just wouldn't do what I wanted them to do, but they're usually minor characters. I did have one who was supposed to die in Chapter One of a story, but I liked him too much, so I killed someone else instead!