Hello there Scribbler friends! Vivienne Ylang here, filling in for J Monkeys. J’s off at the Scottish Festival in Hartford CT today, taking pictures for a future book on multi-culturalism in the United States for preschoolers…nope – that’s not a typo. I’m here filing in and since I’m putting the finishing touches on some characters for my WIP (a time travel romance currently titled Some Time), I thought I’d take a moment to tell you how I develop a character.
For me, a story usually starts with a plot nugget, and this one was no different. Last October, I had an idea for a conflict. From there, I immediately switched gears and thought about who was involved in this conflict. Who were the players. I thought, and thought, and thought. And thought some more. When I had some details worked out, I pulled up my trusty-dusty Character Sketch file and started to fill in the blanks. Yes, yes, I’m a plotter. No pantsing my way around for me.
My character sketch is just a starting point – a place to capture some specific information about each of the main and major supporting characters in the story. I end up knowing much more about my character’s background than just the simple questions on the standard sketch form, but this is where I start.
Now, I know lots of authors who have a hard time casting their roles (come on, we all do it, we’re all ready for that call from Hollywood). Not me. I’m a visual person. I need to be able to see my characters. How did writers live before Google? I’m the queen of Google Images to find pictures of folks to be players in my story. I try to stay away from the Robert Pattinson’s of today’s world of fame and go with more obscure actors or other public figures. And time isn’t an issue for me, so often my characters have the features of long dead folks.
So I like to know the basics, names, dates family history, size, likes, dislikes, hobbies, quirks, fears, goals, hopes and dreams of my characters. I like to know what kind of education they have had, what kinds of jobs they have had. I like to know what makes them tick – what do they want out of life? Why do they want that? What do they need to be happy and do they know what they need?
I’ve learned that I really can’t start writing the story until I have completed this step. I’ve got to write these things down ~ I can’t just wing it. When I try, it ALWAYS comes back to bite me in the butt. While I’m noodling my character sketches, I’m also working on a plot outline – but that’s a topic for another post.
Today’s Secret: It’s perfectly okay to borrow ideas for tools like my character sketch from other authors. I developed this one, but I bet lots of you will have seen some of these questions before. They are fairly common.
Today’s Question: How do you develop characters? Do you need to use paper or do you keep it all in your head? Do you like to cast your characters?