Because every other chapter of my novel addresses the lives and deaths of a variety of characters from the past, I decided character building would be an excellent topic to talk about for this post.
A couple of days ago, I struggled to complete my last story for Chapter 8. When the character finally emerged, the writing came very quickly. After I was done, my daughter asked me how the novel was going. I told her, “Good, now that Rebecca informed me her name is actually Lila, and the way she died was not even remotely what I thought it was.” First, she looked at me as if I was crazy. Then, she patted my hand and said, “Okay, Mom. Whatever you say.” J
Building CharactersWriters have as many ways to build their characters as there are characters in literature. Being heavily influenced by visuals, I always tend to see my characters before anything else. After that, if everything works out well, they will begin to tell me about themselves and their stories.
I have always seen value in creating character sketches because, let’s face it, it doesn’t matter how fantastic your setting is or how engaging your plot may be, if you don’t have strongly developed characters to live in that world and carry out that plot, then you have nothing. I use character sketches at different times during my writing. Many times they are the first thing I do when I begin a story. Other times I will revisit character sketches while I am writing or when I decide to introduce a new character.
Often, if I find myself stuck in the middle of the story and not knowing where we are going next, it is because I do not know my character well enough. Rewriting or revising the character sketch can reinvigorate the story. It is my opinion that if you are involved deeply enough with your characters, it doesn’t matter what you throw at them – you are going to understand how they will react and why. This can dramatically affect both the output and quality of the writing.
I unequivocally believe that any writer can benefit from taking the time to do character sketches – no matter how long he/she has been writing or how much he/she has written.With this in mind, I would like to share a couple of resources I use to complete this important process.
Writing Resources for Character BuildingFirst, Character Questionnaires are a great way to get to know your characters. There are two good examples available through Gotham Writers. You can even download them as .doc files to fill in on Word or to print out and fill in longhand depending on your personal preferences.
Second, I personally also use character sketches to fill in my characters’ back-stories. I find this helps me not only get to know my characters, but also to gather information that I can use to show readers where my characters’ actions, feelings, and motivations come from. It is particularly helpful for creating flashbacks and dropping clues within my stories. Corey Blake has written a wonderful article featured on movie outline – Writing Characters Using Conflict & Backstory. My heartfelt suggestion is to read this article and follow its directions.
Until next time,
Good Day and Good Writing to you all!
Novel Stats – pages: 66; word count: 18377