Thursday, September 3, 2009

If I don’t know what I want for dinner, how can I decide what my character wants for dinner?

We’ll all seen them in magazines or on-line. Personality quizzes.

You know the questions:

You like to be engaged in an active and fast-paced job – sometimes.

You enjoy having a wide circle of acquaintances – depends on the day.

It is in your nature to assume responsibility – only if I feel responsible.

Your actions are frequently influenced by emotions ­– not as much anymore.

You often do jobs in a hurry – all the time.

Sometimes I have trouble figuring out my own personality let alone my characters. I’m not sure how people have their character all figured out before they start writing. I’ve started a new project and I really can’t decide what kind of personality I want this character to have; moody, caring, emotional, or all of the above. I’m even having problems with my main character. The one I’ve already written a whole book about. I don’t know how I want to her to be feeling right now.

I’ve really become stuck and I know I need to write through it and see what comes out, but I know how much work it was to edit the last book.

Anyway besides climbing a mountain, it’s been a very frustrating week. Any thoughts on how you develop your characters many dimensions would be helpful.


Lazy Writer said...

I've always just let my characters develop as I write. I'm not saying it always works, and it does make for a great deal of editing, but that's the only way I know how to do it.

Dara said...

I make character bios before I write the book and pretty much throw whatever glimmer of a thought on the page about the character. They become more real to me when I actually start writing and then they develop minds of their own.

My issue always comes when trying to come up with quirks for the main character(s) or something that makes them stand out from the rest of the cast. It's hard!

Patti said...

Susan: It does make for a lot of editing. Something I'm not looking forward to, but I guess if you don't write anything. You've got nothing to edit.

Dara: I tried the bios. I wrote a back story for one character, but I agree trying to give them more dimension is the tricky part.

JKB said...

I do a lot of thinking in the revision phase. And most of the character comes to me while writing...they grow in some way, have their own problems...and I emphasise that in the final version.

If it helps, I never do those character bios or anyhing. I always use the sentence "Why does this character want to tell this story?"

That usually helps me.

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

My characters personalities get inspired by music. It prob only makes sense in my head, but someone who loves the lyrics to Blue October songs is very different than my character who constantly sings Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald to herself. It even helps me develop what their fav foods are. :)

Jessie Oliveros said...

I'm still working on my character so I have no good advice. But I am trying to figure this girl out! I think I'm probably a figure out as I write person because I have to have the character in scenes and situations before I can really know.

Patti said...

JKB: That's the way it went for my book. The characters came together more after the revisions.

Karen: I like the idea of music since I listen to everything.

Jessie: I think I'm a figure it out as I write kind of girl as well.

K.M. Weiland said...

I love interviewing my characters. Over the years, I've developed a fairly comprehensive list of questions, which I run through for each POV character, before starting the story. I realize this approach doesn't work for some "seat-of-the-pants" writers, but I find it a great help in digging past the surface of a character and finding out who he *really* is.

jenniferneri said...

Loaded question you ask here, Patti.
I get to know my characters as I write. I discover them in this way, and by the end of the novel I know them really well. at the beginning I have an idea, and I don't even realize I don't know them that well, until I do. Are you overthinking it? When I am in similar situations I try to let instinct carry me through. Good Luck!