Monday, July 25, 2011

I Wanna Hear Yours: How Do You Plan Characters?

So right now I'm in the planning stage for my next WIP. It involves a lot of plotting, a lot of research, and a lot of character development.

For me, characters are probably the best and worst part of writing any story. Without lively and sympathetic characters, a beautifully written plot, world building and conflict has no meaning. If your characters are flat and uninteresting, who's going to want to spend any time getting to know them?

Unfortunately, characters are my worst subject. Developing characters, figuring out who they are, making them likeable... it's always been a challenge for me. And along my writing career I've developed a few tricks that I use whenever I have to start a book.

First, usually, I have to figure out where the character fits into the story. I'll use examples from my current planning stage. Most of them are pretty easy. Charlotte? Simple. She's my main character. Vern? Well, I know he'll end up as my love interest. Gaspar slides into the spot of her sponsor, and we have Aunt Cyn sliding in as a guardian.

Most of the time this is very easy, but every so often I'll get an image of a character, and have no idea how they'll fit into the story, only that they will play some part. Right now, that character for my untitled WIP is Dusty Dayton. Dusty is a very mysterious character. I have no idea how he's going to play out in the story, but I do know that he's necessary. I am a bit of an outliner, but not enough that I can see how his part will play out. So I don't know how he's going to fit in, but it will be interesting to see.

Now, I have my characters (And usually in this part I would name them.) And then I move onto developing them. How do I do this? Simple. Fill out this bad boy:

Ethnic Background:
Religion/Religious Background:
Health/Physical Condition/Disabilities:
Educational Background:
Ambitions, Aspirations, Desires:
Major Traits:
Minor Traits:
Character Flaws/Weaknesses:
Character Strengths:
Habitual/Favorite Expressions:
Habitual Mannerisms:
Fears, Anxieties, Hangups:
Attitude Toward Life:
Attitude Toward Death:.
Most Cherished Beliefs/Values:
Worst Habit:
Highest Hope:
Preoccupations, Worries:
Biggest Source Of Pride:
Biggest Source Of Shame Or Defeat:
How They Talk/Speech Patterns (Diction, Tone, Speed, Pitch):
Body Language/Posture:
Perception Of Others:
Reactions To Others:
Involvement With Objects:
Attitude Toward Opposite Sex:
How They Handle Crisis:
Memories, Dreams:
How They Protect Themselves--Fight/Flight/Freeze:
Public Persona:
Daily Habits:
Motivational Patterns/What Gets Them Going:
How They'd Describe Themselves:
Do They See Themselves As Happy/Satisfied?:
Do They See Themselves As A Hero?:
Sense Of Humor:
Feelings Toward Family:
Feelings Toward Friends:
Feelings Toward Enemies:
Philosophy Of Life (In A Phrase):

I LOVE this thing. I wouldn't know where I'd be without it. I didn't create it, I found it on a website, but it helps exponentially. This really helps me get into the characters's heads. I also do a little extra sketch work on the side, like their motivations, add in a bit of internal conflict, and how I think they should change over the course of the book.

It's a long process to go through it, but without it I know my characters come out flat, unchanging, and really unsympathetic.

So you've heard my process, now I wanna hear yours: How do you develop your characters? Do you have a process or do you just see how things go? Maybe your tips can help me find better ways to plan out my characters. ;)



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