Monday, October 14, 2013

Getting to Know Your Character

Apologies to those who wanted to read about Toner Battles. Still working on it!

I usually know what I’m going to write in November well in advance. As the writing season approaches, I take the opportunities that present themselves to learn more about my plot or my characters. Sometimes, the new character will simply introduce themselves as soon as I need to know who they are. I love those kinds of characters, but they are rare.

More often than not, my stories are driven by characters that I am figuring out as I move along. Why is this guy ready to raid the enemy kingdom with no plan? I have no idea, but we’re going to find out...

How do you write a book driven by characters that you don’t know yet? Unless your main character has amnesia on chapter one, you will need to know some basic things before the book begins. How do you get to know your character before page one?

Planning takes many forms for many people. Some write detailed outlines, some write best with no notes at all (more power to you!), but most of us are in the middle and prefer some notes to go on.

I’ve found that I get to know my character through journal entries. The NaNo forums has a games board. As silly as it sounds, this area is what fuels my pre-November planning. There are some threads that focus on character development. My favorite game is the one where you answer questions as your character.

Last year, I needed to get to know my villain better. I knew who he was and what he did, but I was unclear how he got there. I went to the games thread and answered several questions as my villain. I learned that he had issues with how his father did things. From there, I was able to write a fragmented journal that chronicled his change from misguided teen to evil villain. Once I understood what had happened to make him change, I was good. But I had to do some research in order to get there.

How do you get to know your characters?