Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Forget the Legos, It’s Time for Some Character Building!

Just like those towering contraptions we used to construct out of Legos as kids, crafting a novel is very much a work in progress. The tools you have and the ideas you have come up with are those blocks to be stacked, and the glue that holds them together includes all of your characters. You can’t have a plot readers will enjoy without first having compelling characters for them to relate to in some way.

Your newest task in the novel-writing process is to get to know the characters, or the people you want living in the world you are manufacturing. I really haven’t found a sure-fire formula for doing this, but I think any reader and aspiring writer knows what works and what doesn’t. Some possible methods for achieving such characters include:

1. Establish the number of characters  your story will focus on. Keep in mind that in order to help your readers become attached to your characters they must empathize with them. If the reader can become entangled with the life of a character, feel their feelings, and genuinely worry about their fate, their enjoyment of your story will be amplified.

2. One effective way to help readers to feel for your characters is to build your character with depth. Rather than a skeleton, give readers the flesh and blood version. This can be accomplished through back-story , but the most accessible characters are those that grow with the story and allow readers to learn a little bit about themselves at every turn.

3. One idea for achieving this involves something I have already talked about: brainstorming. Divide pieces of paper into four squares and in each square write the name of a character you want to bring to life. Underneath the name list a DETAILED description. In this description, you should include: age/birthday, nicknames, favorite food, fears, desires, habits (bad or good), hobbies, skills, weaknesses, personality traits  (organized, motivated, sloppy, hot-headed, etc…), and everything else you can think of.

4. Use your descriptions to really get to know your characters, and by the time you go to write their first scene you will know without hesitation what they would do. If you develop them clearly enough, it will be as though they were standing right beside you whispering answers in your ear.

5. Lastly, don’t be afraid to make your characters flawed. Not only are flawed characters more entertaining, they are easier to write as well.

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