Monday, 17 February 2014

Character Building Part Two

This post continues on from last week - Developing Character.

So, you have your idea -  the basic story you want to tell. (Note, it's not planned out in detail yet. That comes much later).

You have a feeling for who will act in your little drama. That's the characters.  This post is about developing them further.

Developing Characters Can be a Spooky Experience.

This process can take a day, a week or a month, depending on how much time you have and how intensely you have fallen in love with your concept. For A Necklace of Souls it took about two years! Now, I've cut it back to about two months.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

It takes this long because in order to tell a story believably, you need to have deep, rich, authentic characters. And it takes time for me to believe in them enough to write as though they're real.

You will know when your characters have become real to you. Because, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, a character will do something you had not planned. 

For me, it happened when one character touched another on the shoulder. I had to stop and think, now why did she do that? And then I realised: they were in a relationship! Which I had not written into the plot, dammit. Readers won't pick this action as significant. But I did. It scared the hell out of me.

Three Techniques for Getting into a Character's Head:

  • I draw him/her, over and over. This helps me to anchor him/her in my brain. I'm a really bad artist, so I am NOT going to post an image for you to laugh at. 
  • Some people draw the face, cut out the eyes, put it over their heads, like a mask. So they wear their character's face, speak in his/her voice. Wearing the face, look into a mirror. As your character questions about them, their life. (This is kind of weird, but surprisingly effective.)
  • Cut out photos, put them into a notebook. You can use a Pinterest board, too. Just be aware that sometimes other people's images can dilute the effectiveness of your own imagination.  Here's a Pinterest board I set up for my novel: Images for A Necklace of Souls

There are lots of other techniques - these are just the ones that work for me.

Techniques for Remembering Character Information:
Some writers are quite organised and use spreadsheets, card index files, software. 

Personally, I find this too clinical, although I'd like to try the software. This would be particularly useful with the side characters, the once who dance on and off the stage in supporting roles, because I don't want to remember all their stuff - it's just too much. 

But for the main characters, I hold them all in my head. They're part of me.

My head is becoming crowded.

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