I bet you all have been wondering where the promised topics of 2010 are. Well, here is the first one in a series on character development! I am very excited about this series because honestly, I love developing characters! If you thought having an imaginary friend was fun when you were younger, get ready to experience the allotment invasion of imaginary characters! 😀
To get us started I’m going to talk a little about what it means to have your story character driven and just how important that is.
Think back to your favorite stories (books and movies), what was it about them that you loved the most? The adventure? (Got to love that right?) The story itself? The characters? One of my favorite movies is Sahara; I could watch it over and over again and still not be tired of it. A week or so ago I thought about why I liked it so much, and it occurred to me, the reason was because of the characters. (You got to admit, Dirk and Ale are one of the best movie dues ever! I could quote them all day. 😉 )
Now I’m not saying that plot, story and all that good stuff are not important, on the contrary, they are, but right now I’m going to focus on the importance of creating believable characters. So for now, I want you to forget that dragging plot and stuck story line and just focus on your main characters, (especially the Hero). For once you truly get to know them, you’ll be surprise on how quickly the story picks up.
So what does it mean to have your story be character driven? I haven’t a clue. Okay, maybe I have a bit of a clue. 🙂 It means to have your characters be driving the story. They are in control, not you. Think of it this way; this is their story, you are a biographer and your characters are dictating the story to you. How is this possible? The answer is simple, yet hard to achieve. You get to know these characters inside and out. You become “weird” and “crazed” to the outside world because you “hear voices” and argue with people who aren’t really there. Honestly, that’s how it is, or can get, but you know, it’s a lot of fun. 😉
How do you begin? Simple, choose your character. Usually characters will spring into existence as a story begins to take shape in your mind. You have this awesome idea for a high seas adventure and you need characters to fill in the needed roles. You need a Villain, a Hero, an Ally (someone to support the hero), a Mentor (someone to teach the hero), and if the story calls for one, a Love. Sometimes characters can be a combination, for example, I have a character who is an Ally, a Mentor, and a Love to the Hero. Your Villain could even be a combination. That would make for some great conflict! But that’s another series.
The next question: How do I get to know my characters so well? There are three ways you can do this.
(NOTE: I’ll be covering these in detail through upcoming posts.)
1. Create a detailed outline, asking very specific questions. Ex. Who is this person? What makes them tick? What are their favorite things? Why are said things their favorite?
2. Get to know them as you write. You do this even if you’re not trying. As you write and put your characters through tough situations, you slowly understand them more, why they make the choices they make etc. This is how most writers become familiar with their characters, but I like to use more than just this method which brings me to my favorite.
3. You play with them. How do you play with people who aren’t really there? One way is to get them together with other people who aren’t really there. (I know what you’re thinking, “She’s lost it. She’s been writing too much.” 😛 ) This is how you do it. If you are a member of a writers forum, (if so, you might have already done this or are doing it), start a CD, or a Character Development thread and stick whatever characters you want in there. Then invite others to join you with their characters. It’s a lot of fun, especially when you get character from all different genres talking. Another way you can do that is over chat or even e-mail. If you have a friend who is a writer ask them to have their characters talk to yours. When you do this, don’t let yourself talk through the characters, let them talk for themselves. Really think about who they are and how they would respond. You’ll be amazed with how much you learn.
Another way to “play” with your characters is to interview them, but not a regular interview. You ask them very hard core questions and take your time thinking about how they would answer. There are a lot of games/interviews you can do with your characters, I’m sure there are books and websites packed with them. One I recently learned and rather like is called, (or something close to it), Burning House. I like to call it Sixty Seconds. This is how it goes. Your Hero’s (or any chosen character) house in on fire. He/she has only sixty seconds to grab something and get out. What will he/she grab and why did they grab it? That is only one example. If you want, you can even make up your own.
Lots of people like to begin developing their characters by giving them their physical traits first. Hair color, eye color, height etc. and that’s all well and good, especially if that has to do with a twist in the story or affects who the character is (ex. A superstition says blue eyed people are evil and therefore outcasts), and it really doesn’t matter to me how you start, but keep in mind, the reader isn’t going to care if they have black hair or blond. Part of having your stories be character driven is making the reader care about the people you are writing about. You want this set of people to feel real to the person holding the book. How do you do that? Well, that’s a whole new post. 🙂