Monday, August 22, 2011

Nice to meet you!

I just spent 2 1/2 hours compiling several different Character Questions lists into one long list. One of them came from my friend LoriAnn, the other I'd made myself, and the third came from K. M. Weiland (who, btw, is an excellent blogger on writing mechanics and ideas.You should really follow her!). I added new questions, picked and mixed and matched from the three I had, and added follow-up questions. The final product was 8 pages and over 250 questions.

I put the list into sections, moving through questions as you might if you were meeting a real person--first, what do they look like? What are their names, nicknames? What do they wear?

Then we move on to family--who were your parents? What was your family like?

And on through the list--education, job, personality, and finally personal questions that are a bit nosy. ;)

Why such a long question list?

Because I love getting to know my characters. I like making them real to my readers and, ultimately, I hope my readers love getting to know my characters. I can't do that unless I delve very deeply into my characters' personalities and history. I'm able to learn enough about my characters to predict most of what they will do and say. Even when they surprise me (like my friends still do from time to time), I'm able to go back to the questions and see if they really would do that, or if they're just trying to confuse me. ;)

I can see the obvious changes from the first books I wrote--where I didn't do anything for characters other than throw them into a situation and say, "Have at it!!"--to the later ones, where I've been very careful to get to know my characters beforehand. Scenes come together better, I can know quickly how this certain character would react to a certain comment, and I don't get stuck nearly as much.

If you writers don't do anything with your characters, I'd suggest you find a list of questions or a profile that you can fill out for your characters. Get to know them so you can offer your readers the best, well-rounded characters possible! If you don't know where to look, two good resources are K. M. Weiland's e-book, Crafting Unforgettable Characters (available for free if you sign up to receive her email updates) and Brandilyn Collins' Getting Into Character. If you're interested in seeing my list (or my Character profile for beginners), go to the About page and email me.

1 responses:

Mary Ruth Pursselley said...

I've really come to love getting to know my characters too. I have a humongous list of facts and questions I take them through before I start writing them.
I wish I had done that with my characters before I started writing my current WiP four years ago. Things might have gone much faster and easier if I had. But, what's done is done. I've learned my lesson, and my WiP is finally starting to come together in spite of me. : )
Good post, Heather.


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