Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Character Building

Characters are Core to Plot

This post is about how I build character. Other folk use different techniques, but this is what works for me.

Building a Character, building a world.

In my last post I talked about how ideas are generated. In my novel, A Necklace of Souls, my idea was a girl, fighting in a forest.

But an idea does not a novel make. 

First I needed to know about her. What's her name? Why was she there? What does she look like? My character had no name, but I knew she was slim, lithe, athletic, strong. She could use a sword and a knife. In my dream, she was trying to go somewhere, but some men were trying to stop her. 

Which led to more questions: Why were they trying to stop her? Who were they? Did she have help? What made her want to go through this forest?

Character, motivation, conflict. The basis for a novel.

Techniques for Character Building:

  • Give a character parts of your own personality - I hate sewing, so in my novel Dana has a real aversion to embroidery.
  • Deliberately make a character opposite to you - Owen Marshall explores character traits he doesn't have. For example, what is it like to be an angry man?
  • Think of someone who's made a strong impression on you - for example, a scary teacher. By exaggerating these traits you can develop quite interesting characters. (Character building can be a good way to get even!)

Multiple Personality Disorder:

I need to know my characters REALLY well, not just what they look like but: where they went to school and who their best friends are and what food do they like to eat and do they like sitting still or are they always active are they confident within themselves and if not, why not?

How do other people see them, are they annoying or do they make lots of friends? Are they good with technology or does it bore them. Is there even technology where they live? Have they suffered loss in their lives? How did it change them? What are their parents like? What is their house like? Do they like mess or order? Do they like animals? What do they smell like, first thing in the morning? Are clothes important to them or not? What do they want most in the world? What is their favourite time of day? Do they really really hate something? What, or who? How do they respond to conflict?

Once I've done this for one character - I repeat the process for every major character. Until they each have their own distinctive voice.

Sometimes, in the middle of this character building stuff its like: I have multiple personality disorder.

But it's kind of fun, too.

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